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Corps sending 200 Marines to Central America for disaster relief, training

The U.S. Marine Corps plans on sending 200 men to supplement disaster relief and training operations in Central America and the Caribbean.

By Fred Lambert
Corps sending 200 Marines to Central America for disaster relief, training
A Marine smokes a cigarette in Haiti. (File/UPI/Kevin Dietsch) | License Photo

MIAMI, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. Marine Corps plans to send 200 men next year to supplement an air-ground task force in the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees disaster relief, training and other operations in Central America and the Caribbean.

Brig. Gen. David Coffman, commander of Marine Corps Forces South, told the Marine Corps Times that the new unit will supplement current operations in the area.

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Like most SOUTHCOM missions, the Marines will largely focus on building partnership in a part of the world laden with violence and uncertainty, which has left some of the most vulnerable members of the local populations — including children — fleeing for the U.S. border.

Aside from a ground and logistics element, the task force will also have air capabilities. CH-53E heavy lift helicopters, also known as "Super Stallions," will be available for humanitarian missions, such as those conducted by Marines in Haiti, which was devastated by an earthquake in 2010.

The task force will also focus on helping certain host nations -- including the possibility of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and the Dominican Republic, where the unit might be based -- to develop their own military forces, "both in the narcotics trafficking fight and in a broader sense on how they use their military capability," Coffman said.

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A spokesman for the Marine Corps said that the unit will deploy at the height of hurricane season next year, possibly in May or June.

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