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St. Lucia police team with Airmen during Operation Southern Partner

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Bennie Davis
  • Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
Nearly 30 members of the Royal St. Lucia police force's special service unit worked with a U.S. Air Force Guardian Angel team here June 1 through 3 to enhance search and rescue efforts for the island nation.

The Guardian Angel team deployed for Operation Southern Partner is comprised of a combat rescue officer, pararescuemen, and survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists who are set to teach basic first aid, equipment care and maintenance, mountaineering steep incline rescues with a liter.

Operation Southern Partner is part a 12th Air Force-led event aimed at providing intensive, periodic subject matter exchanges with partner nations in the U.S. Southern Command area of focus. The program features more than 50 U.S. Air Force subject matter experts from about 25 career fields covering 79 topics shared between seven locations in two weeks working alongside partner nation military members in similar career specialties during exchanges in St. Lucia, Barbados, Granada, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Belize.

"This exchange with our nations is important, considering the hurricane season and our role in disaster preparedness. It's absolutely important because we have no specialties in search and rescue, so this cooperation with the Air Force couldn't have come at a more opportune time," said Errol Alexander, the superintendent of training for the Royal St. Lucia police force.

Mr. Alexander said in October 2008, an American tourist fell from a cliff in the Piton Mountains and was stranded for hours. With no search and rescue equipment or capabilities, the government had to resort to requesting help from off island agencies delaying the rescue of the injured man. Mr. Alexander said he believes with the cooperative teaching from the Guardian Angel team his unit will have a greater impact in reference to rescues.

"The special services unit has the charge of first response in search and rescue so we hope to increase their ability to do the mission and to incorporate climbing and rappelling with vertical terrain to enhance the skills they already have," said Maj. Edward Harvey, deputy chief of the military liaison office at the U.S. Embassy in Barbados.

During the three-day exchanges, the special services unit and the Guardian Angel team will engage in high-impact rescue techniques together aimed at helping to create stronger relationships and enhancing the St. Lucia/U.S. partnership while learning job-specific skills in areas requested by the hosting nations.

"I think our teachings will give the police force and the island the capability to rescue their own and not have to rely on outside agencies, where time is critical," said Capt. Travis Shepard, the Guardian Angel team commander. "I think with Operation Southern Partner we are headed together in he right direction. It's a pleasure helping our partners reach success."

During the most intensive part of the operation in St. Lucia, members of the special services unit learned to rappel with a liter to rescue patients. This was the first time members of the unit scaled down mountain walls.

"Since these cliffs and trees are my back yard, I'm not too concerned with my first time rappelling," said Constable Kurneil Sealy. "I think this will benefit our unit in a great way and the country as a whole. I look forward to sharing what I've learned with others in my unit and being advanced in search and rescue procedures."

There are almost 100 total members of the St. Lucia Royal police force special services unit with two different units located on the island. Since St. Lucia doesn't have a military, the special services unit operates as the defense of the country.

"We are primarily police officers," said Sergeant Lucius Lake, operations and task force commander for the special services unit . "This exchange sharpens our skills and makes us more confident for what we have to do for rescues of any kind, natural or manmade. It's going to be a boost for our unit and we are rearing to go learn."

Operation Southern Partner lasts through June 13, as all Airmen will depart Belize to return to their bases.