Members of the Belize Defense Force will soon be wearing boots and utes provided by U.S. Marines. (MC3 Andrew Schneider/Navy)
LADYVILLE, BELIZE — Local soldiers here will soon trek into the jungle on their counter-narcotics missions sporting new boots and uniforms, thanks to an agreement with the Marine Corps in which the Belizeans swapped a jungle warfare training package for new supplies.
In June, Capt. Juan Torres, who led a team of Marines that trained Belizean forces here, told Brig. Gen. David Jones, commander of the Belize Defence Force, that the Corps had completed the agreement to make the trade. Jones said he was ecstatic to be able to provide about a third of his 1,000-man army with new boots comparable to those the Marines wear.
“In the jungle where these guys do patrols ... it’s not nice to be walking in that type of terrain without good boots,” he told Marine Corps Times.
The trade between the two services originated with a deal struck by Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, and the head of the Belizean Ministry of National Security, said Maj. Mike Alvarez, a spokesman for Marine Corps Forces South. About 345 Belizean soldiers will receive brand new hot weather combat boots, woodland camouflage uniforms, H-harnesses, cartridge belts, ammunition pouches, canteens and canteen pouches.
In exchange, Jones’ force will provide jungle warfare training for eight Marines, along with 1,000 gallons of fuel in support of the operation, Alvarez said. Belizean and other Central and South American troops are experts in jungle warfare training.
The total cost of the trade is estimated at nearly $92,000, Alvarez said, and it supports Kelly’s top objective: countering transnational organized crime.
In developing countries, the needs of the local militaries are basic. Leaders here aren’t asking for the latest in fighter jets or amphibious assault vehicles, but for uniform items, ammunition or canteens.
“It has become very difficult for us to get good, decent boots,” Jones said. “In the past, we used to buy them from a company in El Salvador. We try to buy from the region because prices are reasonable, but the quality is not very good.”
Every three months, Jones deploys a company deep into the jungle along the Guatemalan border. They spend a week patrolling, disrupting attempts at trafficking narcotics and other illicit goods.
In that type of environment, good boots can mean the difference between injury and a successful mission, he said.