MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen assigned to SEAL Team – 18 in support of Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) participated in a Joint Combined Exchange Training event in Nicaragua, April 15 to May 15.
JCETs allow U.S. special operations forces to train and hone their skills in foreign nations. This JCET also allowed the SWCC members to train and exchange techniques with military members from Nicaragua. American and Nicaraguan troops routinely train and work together, but for these Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen, this event represented the first time members from this elite unit participated in a formal military exchange program inside Nicaragua’s borders in several years.
This event allowed the SWCC and members of Nicaragua’s Naval Special Operation Detachment (dubbed “Destacamento Operaciones Especiales Navales”) and the Comando Operaciones Especiales to train together and exchange military tactics and ideas. These types of exchanges help U.S. special operations forces maintain their combat readiness while enhancing bilateral relations and interoperability with partner nations through improved military-to-military contacts.
These JCETs are part of Special Operations Command South’s Theater Security Cooperation program. The program enables partner nations to better protect their borders and increase their capacity to conduct special operations. SOCSOUTH is responsible for all U.S. special operations activities in the Caribbean and in Central and South America; it serves as a component for U.S. Southern Command.
In addition, JCETs allow U.S. military personnel to improve their teaching skills and gain regional knowledge. Members of the Nicaraguan military also benefit from this JCET and view it as a great opportunity to learn from experienced U.S. special operations forces.
Located at the heart of Central American isthmus, Nicaragua is the largest nation in the region, but it has been used as a point of illicit trafficking of narcotics and people. Bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica in the south, the nation is one of the few with oceans on either side of its territory. With the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east, the nation has many fronts to protect.
This exchange greatly benefited the Nicaraguan troops in learning new techniques as they protect the nation from the threat of Transnational Organized Crime.
“From the start of this [JCET], we have been training for real-life situations which will help us deter and combat threats such as narco-trafficking and organized crime,” said Nicaraguan 1st Lt. Vicente Roberto Baltodano. “This experience has been very good for us because we have learned critical combat skills, such as first aid, communications, and how to conduct boat interdictions. These are tools that will help us protect our nation from these threats. We have a great amount of respect for them [U.S. military], and it has been a good exchange between us.”
Throughout the four-week JCET, Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen trained on critical skills such as water survival, tactical casualty combat care, communications, basic maritime navigation, boat handling maneuvers on small tactical boats, weapons familiarization, and tactical boat operations.
“One of the main goals coming into this event was to help us increase our skills and help them [Nicaragua military] increase their interoperability,” said a senior SWCC member. “These types of skills will help them protect their borders and waterways.”
For the U.S. servicemebers, this JCET allowed them to build upon the strong military partnerships between the two nations.
“Throughout the JCET, we have enjoyed a very solid working relationship, and we would want to come back. It has been a great exchange,” said a SWCC member.
Ending the monthlong event, a small ceremony took place where each Nicaraguan service member who took part in the event received a certificate of appreciation from their American counterparts.
Baltodano and several other members of the DOEN and COE say they hope they will not have to wait several more years to work with their American counterparts.
“We hope they come back next year and next time stay here training with us for two or three months,” Baltodano said. “We have worked well together and look forward to future training events with them.”