The Marines have a lengthy and distinguished history of operations in Latin America and the Caribbean in the service of U.S. national policy. U.S. Marines had been active in the area long before establishment of a naval security presence during construction of the internationally strategic and commercially vital Panama Canal.
The very first amphibious raid conducted by the U.S. Marine Corps took place on 3 March, 1776, when the British garrison at New Providence, Bahamas was surprised by and surrendered to the U.S. Marines. During this engagement, the Marines captured much needed cannon, shot, and powder which was promptly loaded aboard ship and taken north to aid in the fight for American independence.
Though U.S. Marines Corps Forces, South traces its ground roots to the U.S. Marine Corps Barracks, Panama which was established in 1903 to support the Isthmian Canal Zone, Panama, Marines have contributed to stability and the rule of law for decades throughout the area through garrison duties, nation building, and peacekeeping.
With the relocation of U.S. Southern Command Headquarters to Miami, as stipulated by the Panama Treaty Implementation Plan of 1977, the Liaison Element followed suit and on October 1, 1999, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South moved to Miami and grew to be a self-sufficient headquarters charged with coordinating all U.S. Marine Corps activities in Latin America for Commander, U.S. Southern Command.
In 2004 U.S. Marine Corps Forces South coordinated and directed the 8th Marine Regiment, in cooperation with the French, Canadian, and Chilean militaries to provide the initial peacekeeping forces for the United Nations in Haiti. U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South was also one of the first responding units to conduct foreign humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, officially known as Operation Unified Response, to the Haitian people following the devastating earthquake in 2010.
Today U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South continues to build on the Marine Corps’ legacy and contributions to the region. Marines are continuously engaged in planning, coordinating, and executing the involvement of Marine forces in Foreign Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief, Counter-Transnational Organized Crime, and other operations and activities in support of U.S. Southern Command theater strategic objectives.
1903 Panama—Maj. John A. Lejeune lands in newly established country of Panama
1910 Nicaragua—Maj. Smedley Butler stabilizes Managua
1916 Dominican Republic—Col. Pendleton named Minister of Defense, Navy and Police
1933 Nicaragua—Marines leave after seven years
1999 Panama—MARFORSOUTH moves to Miami
2004 Haiti—BGen Coleman leads UN Stabilization Force
2007 Miami—MARFORSOUTH becomes Stand alone HQ
2010 Haiti—MARFORSOUTH participates in Operation Unified Response
2012 Guatemala—Marines deploy in support of Counter-Transnational Organized Crime operations