Caribbean Security Experts personally observe USA’s National Guard operations in Florida by invitation
The spirit of cooperation between the United States and Caribbean nations was strengthened recently as the Florida National Guard hosted representatives from seven Caribbean countries for a week-long visit.
Representatives from nations belonging to the Regional Security System (RSS) – an international agreement for the defense and security of the eastern Caribbean region – visited Florida from August 9th to 13th.
Representatives toured Florida National Guard facilities, met with senior leaders and learned about the capabilities and missions of the Florida National Guard and the Florida Department of Military Affairs.
RSS nations represented during the visit included: Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; Dominica; Grenada; St. Lucia; St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and St. Kitts and Nevis.
“This is important for Florida that we have relationships with these Caribbean nations as we face similar threats of natural disasters and the flow of illegal narcotics into our states,” said Florida National Guard State Partnership Coordinator Lt. Col. Stephen Dowdie, who conducted the tours and briefings for the RSS representatives.
Dowdie explained that the visit was not just about enhancing relations between the Florida National Guard and the nations, but was constructed to really introduce the Caribbean visitors to Florida programs that could be modeled and add value to the security and self-sufficiency of those nations.
The visit included stops at the Florida National Guard headquarters and Emergency Operations Center in St. Augustine, the Youth Challenge Academy and Regional Training Institute at Camp Blanding, the Guard’s Counterdrug mission-sites in Jacksonville, and Putnam County Emergency Operations Center.
“We conduct seminars, conferences and subject-matter exchanges to provide familiarization with the procedures and techniques on emergency operations, medical assistance, leadership and counter-narcotics operations,” Dowdie said.
During a visit to view Florida’s Counterdrug aviation assets in Jacksonville on Aug. 12, Regional Security System Coordinator Grantley Watson said his contingent was impressed with what they saw, and considered this a great opportunity to continue to the RSS partnership with Florida.
“I admire the Florida National Guard,” he said, after viewing static displays of LUH-72 Lakota and OH-58 Kiowa Counterdrug helicopters. “I think it is a very good program. We in the RSS can benefit with this partnership.”
Grantley said that one of the programs he was most impressed with was the Florida Youth ChalleNGe Academy, and they plan to discuss the feasibility of similar programs in their respective nations.
“We were looking for a program that all of our member states can introduce,” he said, noting that only one of the RSS states (Barbados) has a similar program. “With this Youth ChalleNGe program we can take it, tweak it, and use it for all of our member states.”
Director of Plans, Intelligence and Law Enforcement for the RSS Mr. Ian Queeley – who is also the Assistant Commissioner of Police for St. Kitts – echoed Grantley’s impressions with Florida’s capabilities.
“So far all of the visits we have had have been tremendous,” Queeley said on Aug. 12. “And we have seen a lot ways in which the cooperation can be improved – and will be improved.”