SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic --
Two UH-1 Iroquois helicopters swoop onto a building rooftop, kicking dust and debris up into the air, at Ciudad Del Niño during a day of training in March. The commandos, members of a Dominican Republic counter-terrorism unit known as Secretaria De Las Fuerzas Armadas Commando Especial Contra Terrorismo (SEFA-CT,) charge off the helicopters and rush into the building down misshapen stone steps.
The forward security posts and screams “Limpio,” the Spanish word for clean. The commandos push forward when an instructor from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command grabs the last man in the stack, Wilber, an assaulter with the SEFA-CT. The Marine spins him around and points sternly. Wilber instantly knows what he has done wrong. Caught in the moment, he forgot to relieve the rearward security. He rushes back and taps the commando standing guard on the shoulder, signaling him to move forward.
The stack pushes on...
This is a snapshot moment, taken from a day in the life of a SEFA-CT commando being trained by MARSOC Marines. The training took place during Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET), as part of U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), Special Operations Command-South’s Exercise FUSED RESPONSE.
USSOUTHCOM exercise FUSED RESPONSE involves forces from the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. The exercise serves to improve the interoperability between the militaries and the combat abilities of the SEFA-CT.
MARSOC Teams have the mission of teaching advanced combat skills to foreign military units. Units like the SEFA-CT, a Special Forces unit comprised of the best troops from each branch of their armed forces, called “commandos.”
The members of this MARSOC team have spent months deployed here, training the ain various techniques, tactics, and procedures intended to enhance their overall abilities and prepare them for actual operations.
Since the SEFA-CT primarily deals in Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), the Marines focused teaching the commandos advanced Close Quarters Battle (CQB) skills. Together, they rehearsed operational planning, and conducted CQB operations during numerous training scenarios, according to the team captain.
“I trained a lot before they came, but I have never been trained as hard or professionally as I am now,” said Ricardo, a SEFA-CT assaulter, through a translator.
The SEFA-CT SWAT type missions include counterterrorism and counternarcotics. According to Ricardo, portions of the training mirrored this fact.
The numerous days of training in the JCET culminated March 15 at Ciudad Del Niño where the commandos assaulted the objective while the Marines served in an advisory role.
According to SOCSOUTH spokesperson, Maj. Armando Hernandez, exercise FUSED RESPONSE provided real world scenarios that tested the commandos ability to execute their learned tasks while working alongside with U.S. support.
A Marine sergeant serving as an instructor on the team, said: “Units, regardless of their skill level, need to spend large amounts of time mastering their craft before conducting special operations in a real world setting. Otherwise, they could end up making mistakes with dire consequences.”
“Everybody learns direct action through repetition,” the Marine sergeant said.
The Marines used a number of training tools and techniques to teach the commandos those fundamentals. They used simunition rounds, paint-filled projectiles, to teach them the painful stings a mistake in combat can cause. They also conducted dry runs to instill muscle memory into their CQB tactics.
“The more scenarios you can put them through, the better you can get the fundamentals in place, and the better they are going to react to different structures and enclosures,” said the Marine sergeant.
On March 16, the Marines, commandos and members of USSOUTHCOM, USSOCSOUTH, hosted a ceremony commemorating the success of Exercise FUSED RESPONSE.
“Threats are always out there. Everyday there is a new threat,” Ricardo said.
“Our unit is top-notch, the best in the country! We need to be prepared for those threats, mainly in counter-narcotics and terrorism,” Ricardo added.
“With this training, I feel confident for whatever might be out there,” he said.