Navy command will customize training for foreign militaries
WASHINGTON — The Navy this week launched a new command designed to help train foreign allies in waterway patrols, bomb disposal and other critical security skills.
Officials say the new Expeditionary Training Command, which supports the Navy’s Expeditionary Combat Command, will go beyond mentoring programs already offered by the Navy and other services.
“This is not just a basic subject matter expert with basic skills giving a course,” said Cmdr. David Somers, head of the new command. “This is something we’ll be able to customize, work with the foreign [military], and take to them.”
Plans call for a core staff of 75 sailors to plan and run the training sessions. The new command will be headquartered at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Virginia; Somers expects most of the work will take place overseas.
Already, the trainers have plans to work with military personnel in several Central American countries — Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic among them — on topics such as naval construction, expeditionary logistics, salvage operations and coastal warfare planning.
Somers said his office has also received several inquiries for help from African countries interested in bolstering their security training.
“We think the demand for this is going to be pretty high,” he said. “The Coast Guard and Navy have been doing some foreign training for the last 10 years, but what we’ve seen is that the demand has risen dramatically in the last few years.”
Teams of five to 10 trainers will travel to the countries to assess the foreign troops’ skill levels, develop training programs and, after weeks of mentoring, return for periodic refreshers and progress reports.
Somers said translators and other local experts will be pulled from outside the new command to help support the training.
So far, the ETC has a staff of only 15. Somers said he expects filling out the staff will take about a year.
“These people have to be experts, but that’s not enough,” he said. “They’re also ambassadors, they’re representatives of the U.S. to other countries. It becomes a cultural lesson as well as a training lesson.”