GEORGETOWN, Guyana – As the Caribbean-focused multinational exercise, TRADEWINDS 23, hits full stride in Guyana, a team of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and Dominican Republic instructors traveled by land and sea to various training sites to speak about humanitarian law, human rights and Women, Peace and Security (WPS).
SOUTHCOM Human Rights Coordinator, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Jose Rodriguez said the promotion of human rights is a major objective of TRADEWINDS and the principles that the team covered was a crucial aspect to interoperability.
“Respect for human rights is consistent with democratic values, so we promote those values that unite us and strengthen our partnerships,” said Rodriguez. “We have common threats in our [region] and we have to face them bilaterally and multilaterally. Respect for human rights is a part of that interoperability.”
More than just a human rights training, TRADEWINDS is an annual SOUTHCOM sponsored, joint, combined, multinational and interagency exercise designed to strengthen partnerships and interoperability, increase all participants' training capacity and capability to mitigate, plan for and respond to regional crises and security threats.
Dominican Republic army Col. Juan Perez Richiez, instructor at the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law School in the Dominican Republic, said in order to achieve these training objectives, it is necessary to have a mutual understanding of how to legally and ethically operate during peacetime and war.
“When we are talking about international humanitarian law, we are talking about the law of armed conflict, and that is something every soldier needs to know and needs to learn during peacetime,” exclaimed Perez. “So then, when he or she is at war, in combat, they know what they can or can’t do.”
Perez went on to say that he has been working in the field of human rights for over 20 years all across Central and South America and the Caribbean and said he has seen a positive change in the preservation of human rights.
“I really think teaching human rights is not only my obligation, but it’s one of the best things I could do with my life,” admitted Perez. “I’ve seen that many armed forces had no or very little prior knowledge of human rights, and after these trainings,…human rights have been preserved at another level.”
A common theme throughout the training was that equality is a crucial aspect of human rights, and the WPS initiative works to promote gender equality and increase the meaningful participation of women to prevent conflict and maintain peace.
SOUTHCOM’s Gender Advisor, Jennifer Typrowicz, said gender integration in defense forces is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do.
“The SOUTHCOM WPS initiative is a priority, and we implement some sort of WPS training in everything that we do,” affirmed Typrowicz. “We have seen [defense] forces in [the SOUTHCOM] area of responsibility start to include more women.”
Typrowicz came to Guyana for TRADEWINDS 21 to instruct WPS training for its inaugural inclusion in the exercise, and she has observed an increased awareness and effort from the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) to integrate women into more roles in their military.
“When I was here in 2021, I walked around and not many people knew what WPS was, and since then we’ve seen them change policies,” claimed Typrowicz. “They now have women that are able to serve at the border which wasn’t something that was happening in 2021.”
Typrowicz said she believes the leadership support is imperative to accomplish change, and the GDF Chief of Staff, Brigadier Omar Khan, confirmed his endorsement for more women involvement in the force.
Khan requested that SOUTHCOM hold a WPS training for the GDF senior leaders in the days before TRADEWINDS 23.
“Military leaders have to take a lead in women’s integration in the whole spectrum of governance, including the security force,” said Khan. “The WPS initiative has a correlation in that the more we behave as responsible men and shape our male youth, we will have a better society, and part of that is respecting women, understanding their needs, and how we need them whether in the public sector, the private sector or the security sector.”
TRADEWINDS 23 is the 38th iteration of the exercise and with over 1,500 participants from 21 countries training in the ground, air, sea and cyber domains in various locations across Guyana from July 15-28.