USNS SPEARHEAD, Southern Partnership Station-Joint High Speed Vessel 2015 Completes Mission in Caribbean, Central and South America

Story Number: NNS151009-07Release Date: 10/9/2015 12:44:00 PM
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By Capt. Gary D. Loten-Beckford, Southern Partnership Station Joint High Speed Vessel 2015 Public Affairs Officer

MAYPORT, Fla (NNS) -- The Southern Partnership Station Joint High Speed Vessel 2015 (SPS-JHSV 15) mission came to an end as USNS Spearhead returns from a four-month deployment involving subject matter expert exchanges (SMEEs) and building partner capacity (BPC) projects in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Colombia.

The USNS Spearhead, operated by the Military Sealift Command (MSC), traveled throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America. The sum of mileage traveled in the SPS-JHSV 15 mission exceeded 12,800 miles.

Commands from different branches of service embarked on USNS Spearhead as part of SPS-JHSV 15. Assigned units, called Adaptive Force Packages (AFPs), focused on locally identified needs such as noncommissioned officer professional development, operational risk management, medical readiness and EOD and Diver exchanges among others.

AFPs came from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), Norfolk, Virginia; U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surger(BUMED); U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC); Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command; Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS); Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 202 (CBMU 202); Navy Warfare Development Command; Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 6, Virginia Beach, Virginia; public affairs support from Navy Public Affairs Support Element East and Fleet Combat Camera Pacific, Norfolk and the 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment (MPAD), Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

U.S. Marine Corps AFP elements included 8th Engineer Support Battalion (ESB) and civil affairs. The medical AFP was comprised of personnel from Public Health Command Region-South, Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Expeditionary Medical Facility Great Lakes, Navy Entomology Preventive Medicine Unit 2 and Army Dental Activity from Fort Worth, Texas, and Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

The mission in Honduras spanned July 12 to Aug. 22 in Puerto Castilla, Trujillo and Santa Fe, where U.S. service members conducted SMEEs and BPCs. Sailors covered training topics with Honduran service members and with the Marines, and repaired roadways, culverts and schools. Medical AFPs facilitated a Medical Civic Actions Program (MEDCAP) that tended to civilians in Santa Fe and Trujillo. Hospital renovations were also completed at the Dr. Salvador Paredes Hospital, improving the facility where many local Hondurans receive treatment. School renovations were completed at the Instituto Polivalente Juan Laboriel in Santa Fe, Escuela Vilma Yolanda Castillo in Trujillo and Juan Ramos in Puerto Castilla. The joint-service members also conducted a community relations event "Loving Hugs," a program for distributing stuffed animals to children of the three local communities.

Deputy Commander SPS-JHSV 15, Lt. Col. Rudy Quiles, assigned to 4th Civil Affairs Group in Miami, said the most natural partner for the Navy is the U.S. Marine Corps.

Marines facilitated a water treatment program for three neighboring communities while serving in Honduras. Water purification specialists purified 5,000 gallons of water for the local community with their Lightweight Water Purification System (LWPS).

Through subject matter expert exchanges, construction projects and medical engagements with Honduran military personnel and civilians, Southern Partnership Station was able to improve community infrastructure and created strong ties with the Honduran military and civilian community.

"Our Seabees and combat engineers focused on construction projects that built infrastructure and relationships in the city of Trujillo," said Adaptive Force Package Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Robert Toth.

"Projects were selected in conjunction with the Honduran leadership in the area and include repairing schools and draining culverts alongside our host nation partners. The Navy EOD and Divers conducted SMEEs, helping build experience for the Honduran Divers and foster key relationships. The medical team concentrated on SMEEs for promoting prevention, suitability and education."

The mission's second stop in Belize, from August 3-21, brought U.S. service members to Punta Gorda and Price Barracks to conduct SMEEs. Participants covered 64 training topics during that time with Belizean participants. While ashore in Belize, Navy EOD and Divers conducted various SMEEs with members of the Belizean Defense Force and Coast Guard for three weeks.

"The SPS-JHSV 15 mission in Belize structured around subject matter expert exchanges with our partners, building partner capacity, humanitarian aid and disaster relief and training together to prevent counter-illicit trafficking--all of which serve our shared interests and values throughout the region," said Capt. Bob Cepek, mission commander of Southern Partnership Station-Joint High Speed Vessel 2015.

The mission's third stop in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala lasted from Aug. 25 to 4 October. In Puerto Barrios, service members provided a medical team, Navy Seabees, EOD Technicians and Divers, an Army and Navy public affairs element and Marine engineers. Service members conducted SMEEs with the Guatemalan Navy, Brigada de Infanteria (BIM- Marine Corps) and the Fuerza Especial Naval (FEN- Special Forces).

According to SPS-JHSV15 Operations Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Harvey, the SPS mission served to maintain partnership in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala as it has in the past.

"The emphasis of the SPS mission was partnership," said Harvey. "Service members worked side by side with the Guatemalan Navy, Marines and their elite special forces unit; the U.S. and Guatemala mutually benefited from expert exchanges conducted."

A MEDCAP event allowed for a joint effort between the medical AFPs and Guatemalan medical teams. More than 400 women were given prenatal care, and many children were treated for parasitic infections. Outside of the MEDCAP event, medical AFPs also tended to more than 250 people and conducted SMEEs that will aid future medical procedures.

The mission's final stop in Cartagena, Colombia spanned from 16 September to 30 September. In Cartagena, service members consisted of Navy EOD Technicians and Divers, Navy Seabees and a Navy Mass Communications Specialist.

In order to support the mission in Colombia, Navy divers from MDSU 2 and explosive ordnance disposal technicians from EODMU 3 traveled to Colombia for engagements. MDSU 2 worked with Colombian Navy dive school students and instructors, increasing proficiency, training and techniques. EOD classroom training was also conducted, facilitating tactical training and procedures.

While ashore in Colombia, Navy Divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Company (MDS) 3-1 from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3 and EOD from Platoon 642, EODMU6 provided training and conducted SMEEs with their counterparts to increase partner nation capabilities to counter illicit trafficking.

The two teams detached into separate groups with different objectives. The divers stayed in Cartagena and worked with the Colombian Dive Salvage team while the EOD team travelled south to Corvina and partnered with the Colombian counter-improvised explosive device (IED) team.

According to Navy Diver 1st Class Joseph Olin of MDS 3-1 from EODMU 3, stationed in San Diego, the Colombian divers were very knowledgeable.

"The Colombian divers are very advanced, and their diving skills are comparable to ours," said Olin. "They also use U.S. Dive manuals as their primary rule book, so dive integration was easy."

USNS Spearhead spent the second portion of its deployment in the Caribbean Sea while the SPS 15 mission continued in the various countries. Spearhead conducted experimentation with Navy Warfare Development Command that included tasks from last year's mission for the JHSV class.

In July, the ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) was launched successfully off a rail launcher and recovered onboard. Throughout the deployment, the hand-launched Puma UAS conducted detection and monitoring operations in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility in support of Joint Interagency Task Force-South. Spearhead also conducted refueling operations with smaller vessels, using a rig developed on board and further expanding potential JHSV capabilities.

For Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class (BM2) Shanna Mears, of Navy Cargo Handling Battalion One in Williamsburg, Virginia, this was her first deployment. She volunteered for SPS-JHSV 15.

"I gained far more experience than expected from this deployment," said Mears. "I got to experience different countries and met great people. This deployment made me realize that I'd like to be an officer leading Sailors."

SPS-JHSV 15 is a U.S. Navy deployment focused on subject-matter expert exchanges with partner nation militaries and security forces. U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet employ maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability and build enduring partnerships that foster regional security in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility.

For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit

For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit

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