JACMEL, Haiti (NNS) -- It has been said that no operation extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter and nowhere is this more true than with military-to-military training partnerships.
Despite highly-detailed planning, there are times when training requirements change, deployment schedules shift, and the needs and goals of countries evolve.
Simply put, when two or more countries join to train together, flexibility is a requirement.
That certainly proved to be the case for two personnel from the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School (NAVSCIATTS) who were recently assigned to work with 10 members of the Uruguayan navy in Jacmel, Haiti, as part of a Mobile Training Team (MTT) designed to improve Uruguayan small craft maritime capabilities.
Uruguay, in turn, has been providing assistance and building partnership capability to the Haitian Coast Guard as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in that country since 2004.
The NAVSCIATTS MTT was the culmination of a multi-agency Security Cooperation and Security Assistance partnership put together by Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), Program Executive Office Ships (PEO Ships/PMS325), U.S. embassies in Haiti and Uruguay, Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity (NETSAFA) and Naval Special Warfare under a Global Peace Operations Initiative, according Myung C. Park, project manager, PEO Ships/PMS325.
The intent of the equipment and training purchase, in which outboard engines and a package of spare parts, diagnostic tools and training for the Uruguayan military were procured under the United Nations Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH), was to reactivate four of eight patrol boat engines currently stationed by Uruguay in Haiti and to promote equipment sustainability and increase Uruguayan capabilities in engine maintenance.
"When we first hit the ground for the Pre-Deployment Site Survey (PDSS), our initial plan was that we were going to be helping Uruguayan personnel install several new engines and showing them how to conduct maintenance so that they could keep all their small craft up and running," said Chief Petty Officer Alejandro Rodriguez, an instructor for the NAVSCIATTS Outboard Motor Maintenance and Overhaul Course. "Instead, when we got there, we found that all the engines had already been installed by our Uruguayan partners and that, based on their initiative, we would be able to do even more to maximize our time in country."
Three old, damaged engines rusting away on the ground behind the maintenance building provided just the opportunity that the NAVSCIATTS staff were looking for, according to Rodriguez, as they were able to not only provide required preventative maintenance training for all the new engines as initially planned, but were also able to scavenge parts from the three old engines and rebuild them into a single new working engine.
The Uruguayans were also able to diagnose and fix three of the older engines that had already been replaced with the assistance of the NAVSCIATTS instructors.
"One of the great advantages of working with NAVSCIATTS is that we do a PDSS before every MTT to make sure we know exactly what we need to make the most of our time, effort and investment," said Rodriguez. "In this case, that means we were able to teach them how to maintain all their new engines and equipment as initially planned, and also help them repair four additional engines that otherwise may have been thrown away.
"Having four additional working engines offers a huge boost to their capabilities and also helps save a lot more money down the line," said Rodriguez.
Cutting costs and getting more for less is another result of this first direct partnership between NAVSCIATTS and PEO Ships/PMS325 as military-to-military training provided by NAVSCIATTS is not subject to many of the additional costs attached to other Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programs, according to Park. This results in every dollar allocated to training being spent on the actual training for the FMS customer.
"The only costs to conduct the PDSS and the MTT were for the trainers travel to and from Haiti, in-country transportation, and food and lodging costs," said Park.
Such savings are substantial and are another reason why, after researching the request and the capabilities and offerings of NAVSCIATTS, PEO Ships/PMS325 determined that it was a great opportunity to work directly with NAVSCIATTS on this project to provide military training to the Uruguayan Navy, Park said.
"NAVSCIATTS brings to the table both flexibility and an ability to provide military-to-military operational and lifecycle maintenance training in addition to the vendor procured and provided familiarization training," he said. "This is in line with the 'Total-Package Approach' in meeting the needs of the customer that PEO Ships/PMS325 and NAVSEA strive to provide to Security Assistance programs. Given the capabilities of NAVSCIATTS and the unique opportunity for military-to-military type training, PMS325F is looking at future opportunities to bring NAVSCIATTS into the training mix."
When asked what they would have changed about the training, or what could have been done better, several personnel from the Uruguayan maritime unit replied with similar answers.
"I wish we had been able to conduct this maintenance training two years ago," said Lt. Cmdr. Guillermo Delgado, URUMAR G3 Staff, Uruguay Maritime Unit in Haiti. "Maintenance is the key to operations. Engines do not last forever. If we had been able to get together and do some of this training earlier we would have been in a much better position to accomplish our mission and realize our other long-term goals and objectives."
NAVSCIATTS leadership also offered up some ideas on how to improve the overall procurement and training process from their perspective.
"It's always very useful to be able to conduct a PDSS before any MTT," said Cmdr. John Cowan, NAVSCIATTS commanding officer. "In this and most other cases, however, we would also like to be able to send some of the Foreign Security Force students to the U.S. for maintenance and instructor development training before both the PDSS and MTT.
"Doing so will ensure that our partner nations will always get the most from the equipment and training that they purchase as they will be more prepared when the first equipment arrives. We can then follow up the U.S.-based training with an MTT like this one."
The ability to better plan ahead, cooperate and share information between countries will continue to play an increasingly important role in Security Cooperation matters around the world, according to Maj. Eldridge R. Singleton, U.S. Army Operations Officer, Security Cooperation Office, U.S. Embassy, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
"NAVSCIATTS is here to help the Uruguayans, who are here to help the Haitians," said Singleton. "It's great in that it shows both a willingness among countries to share and help each other and also puts a focus on the importance of various maintenance and training programs. Alone we may not have the capabilities to do what we have to do, but together we can get it done."
For more news from Naval Special Warfare Group 4, visit www.navy.mil/local/nswg4/.