Deployed to Trinidad

3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne)

By Sgt. Nelson Mumma Jr.       PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, (Army News Service, July 24, 1998)


3rd Group soldiers deploy to Trinidad

 -- They stuck them with needles, pushed them off the top of a building, forced them to swim long distances, capsized their boats and then sent them into the jungle.

And in the end, they celebrated together.

Nine members of Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 364, C Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) deployed to Trinidad and Tobago in July to instruct 24 Trinidadian Special Operations Group soldiers.

"Our mission was to come here and train these guys in light infantry tactics with an emphasis in urban operations," said Capt. Dennis Harrison, ODA commander. "They already have some great skills, and we came to add to them."

The 30-day training program began and ended with a physical fitness test. In between, the host-nation soldiers learned about laws of war, operations orders, weapons marksmanship, basic medical procedures and movement in urban terrain.

And when the Special Operations Group soldiers were through, they took what they learned and went into the jungle for a three-day field training exercise.

"This training is great because we can use it after the Americans are gone. For example, the medical training, using the intravenous injections -- that could help save our lives," said one Trinidadian group member.

What the ODA accomplished was force multiplication. Every Trinidadian trained can teach his fellow soldiers, whom may then train others.

"These guys can reach at least 10 times the number of soldiers we could reach ourselves," said Sgt. 1st Class Dean Mikesell, ODA senior communications sergeant. "What we did here will have an impact long after we go back to Fort Bragg."

While the training dealt mostly with light-infantry skills, unique, but necessary, training was also scheduled.

For example, the soldiers practiced rappelling off an 80-foot building, with and without combat gear and weapons. They also participated in maritime operations, which consisted mostly of swimming and boat training.

Here the soldiers learned the most efficient way to capsize and then right their own Zodiacs. They practiced a maneuver called casting, which is sliding off of the Zodiac while it is moving forward. Zodiacs are 10-man rubber boats used by the Special Forces to transport soldiers.

The training was conducted mostly from Monday through Friday. Training days started with in the morning with physical training and ended in late afternoon when all activities were completed.

For the Special Forces troops, work didn't stop there. After returning to quarters, they held meetings to ensure everyone was prepared for the next day's training. Preparations continued until all details were handled.

The weekends provided some rest and relaxation, but mostly provided time to inspect a future training site or continue training preparations. At 5 p.m. Sunday, the weekend was officially over when the group gathered to discuss the week's training.

"When we get back to Fort Bragg, people will ask us, 'Did you get to see a lot of Trinidad?' The truth is, we haven't because we were always busy," Harrison said.

The ODA deployed as part of the Joint Combined Exchange Training program. Under a JCET, Special Forces travel to foreign countries to train host-nation forces.

Their training objectives include developing their own language skills, learning the area, cultural immersion, and improving both their training skills and their proficiency in the Special Forces Mission Essential Task List. The hard work will pay off when it comes time to deploy to real-world conflicts.

"We are preparing for future operations," said Harrison, a Cleveland native. "If we have to conduct operations in an area similar to this, we will know what we have to contend with operationally -- types of terrain, water sources, how we are going to plan."

Harrison, 34, also cited the jungle, the heat, the steep terrain and the amount of training available within the Trinidadian compound, as benefits to training here.

Mikesell, 30, has been in Special Forces for six years. To him, self-improvement is the greatest benefit to this deployment. "We came here to teach them things, but ... we learn from them everyday. It's a give and take process," he said. "Training other troops reinforces skills in yourself. Every time you teach someone else you teach yourself."

And in the process, the SF soldiers also managed to make some friends. "These guys are like brothers to us," a Trinidadian group team leader said. "When it's time to train, they are all business. But when the training is over, they sit around and talk with us, and we have a good time."

That's the kind of relationship the Special Forces team hoped to create when they entered the country in early July.

"We didn't want to come here and be real hard and tell them this is what they will and will not do," Harrison said. "We share a common bond because we are both special operators. We've developed great camaraderie."

The Special Operations Group is Trinidad's equivalent to the U.S. Army's Special Forces. "They are probably the premier soldiers in the Caribbean," said Maj. John David Salome, U.S. Army military representative working out of the American embassy to Trinidad and Tobago. "They have tremendous skills and are hungry for any knowledge we can bring them."

Harrison is a former artilleryman and has spent 15 years in the Army. He's seen and evaluated plenty of soldiers, and to him, the Trinidadians are some of the best.

"After seeing what they're all about, I would operate right next to them," he said. "I have a lot of confidence in this unit, and if there's any operation where we operate with them, that would be perfect."

(Editor's note: Mumma is with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Public Affairs Office at Fort Bragg,

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