US Marine force deploying to Honduras for hurricane season
CH-53E Super Stallion cargo helicopters (AFP Photo/James Nielsen)

Troops from a 250-strong contingent of US Marines will start to deploy to Honduras this week to provide help if needed during the region's hurricane season and to train local forces, officials said Tuesday.

The special purpose Marine air-ground task force will be equipped with four CH-53E Super Stallion cargo helicopters and will be advising Central American armies on efforts to counter narcotics trafficking.

"The Marines will deploy in various stages starting this week with the majority of the force arriving the first week of June," according to a statement from Marine Corps forces in US Southern Command.

The mission, which runs through November, coincides with hurricane season in Central America.

The bulk of the force, about 180 Marines, will operate out of Palmerola Air Base in Honduras, which was a major staging area in the 1980s for American military support to Contra rebels fighting the Nicaraguan government.

The remaining troops will form small training teams that will work in Belize, El Salvador and Guatemala, as well as Honduras.

Pentagon officials have emphasized there are no plans for a permanent deployment of US troops, a sensitive political issue in a region where American forces historically sided with authoritarian regimes.

For similar reasons, the US military has not given the mission to Honduras any official name.

The scheduled arrival of the Marines in Honduras marks the first US military rapid-response task force to be based in Central America.