In mid February 2012, the 162nd Brigade of the United States Infantry in Fort Polk, Louisiana, conducted a workshop to discuss the role of Region Aligned Forces (RAF) in the Western Hemisphere. The meeting took place at the School of Professional Military Education from the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).
The 162nd Brigade is tasked with preparing officers and noncommissioned officers, instructing them in areas such as language, culture, economy, socio-political negotiations, use of diplomacy and other subjects that serve as a base for the implementation of the formerly called Region Aligned Brigades (RAB).
The objective of these efforts is the regionalization and transformation of the brigades so they can face global challenges. The final goal of these forces is to be aligned geographically to support the combat posts: North, South, Central, Pacific, European, and the newly formed African Continent Command Post.
The workshop analyzed conditions such as poverty, corruption, and unequal distribution of resources, unemployment, and the exclusion of some social classes, impunity, governmental problems and border security. It also studied hemispheric challenges such as transnational organized crime, drug trafficking, natural disasters, violent extremist groups, narco-terrorism, crime, urban gangs and massive migrations.
Colonel Glen R. Huber Jr., commander of WHINSEC, emphasized that all countries in the hemisphere including the United States have in some way, shape or form, the same conditions and challenges. He took the opportunity to urge participants to propose regional solutions to these conditions and challenges. He was also emphatic when requesting that the proposals presented contemplate both the building of capabilities and regional cooperation.
Among the suggested recommendations, the more significant ones were to carry out activities for skill development through training, equipment, constructing infrastructure and supporting all law and order enforcement agencies. There were also proposals that focused on the scourge of narco-terrorism and transnational crime through information sharing, training and intelligence. Additionally, as a result of the exercise, the participation of Region Alligned Forces (RAF), as they were formerly called, in multinational exercises like PANAMAX, United Humanitarian Forces, and Beyond the Horizon came about. The participants based their recommendations on the needs of the Western Hemisphere countries that were represented, U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) Strategic Plan 2020, and the mission and vision of the U.S. Army.
In the case of the Western Hemisphere, nobody currently knows what structure the RAF will take being that all the theatres of operation are different. The conditions and challenges in the Western Hemisphere are very different from those in the African, European or Oriental continents. With that end in mind, the RAF for the Western Hemisphere must count on engineering resources that will allow them to participate in humanitarian aid events and construction exercises; rotary-wing aircraft to support natural disaster operations, medical exercises in places with restrictions to land access, resources in the medical field to support medical, dental and ophthalmologic exercises, and intelligence means to cooperate in the areas of drug-trafficking, terrorism and other transnational crimes. It was also recommended that the RAF include experts in civil affairs, logistics, military police, and special operations among their ranks, as well as units dedicated to leadership development in order to reach a multiplying effect, continuity and development at the local, regional and hemispheric level.
Furthermore, significant points were made to contemplate interagency, intergovernmental and multinational synergetic joint cooperation to find solutions that go beyond borders.
The analysis raised the question of how large the presence of the RAF would be in the participating countries. The answer is that each country is different; nevertheless, we can emphasize that the majority of the support will be made of mobile training groups through expert exchanges. Each country’s embassy team will discuss both the requirements for the RAF as well as diplomatic scenarios with the ministries of foreign affairs to respect the sovereignty, and obtain the guarantees and protection for the U.S. forces in foreign territory.
Another proposal for the hemisphere’s RAF addressed key issues such as those regarding coordination with academic institutions in the field of security. For this purpose, the proposals were aimed at the coordination between WHINSEC, the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies and the Inter-American Defense Board, among other similar organizations in the hemisphere. Other approaches suggest that the coordination with international government and non-government organizations be closely observed. Some examples include the International Red Cross, the Inter-American Human Rights Court, Global Financial Integrity, the Organization of American States, and the United Nations and their programs in the hemisphere. At the same time there were proposals for the RAF to carry out events with military organizations such as the Conference of Central American Armed Forces.
We hope that the RAF become the force of the future because they have a proactive and cooperative tone in equality of conditions. We continue to analyze different scenarios in which the RAF can efficiently exercise their work once they are properly consolidated. Analyzing their expectations is a continuous task, which is why readers are encouraged to send their comments or innovative thoughts. The 162nd Brigade’s task will be to study them and submit them to our chain of command in order to be considered for possible implementation.
Forty-eight officers from 12 countries attended the Joint Staff and Command Course. Robert Ward, U.S. Department of State representative at WHINSEC, also attended, as did John Van Doorn, director of the International Relations department at Troy University, and WHINSEC instructors.
To read the first portion of this article, please visit:
*Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Lopez Santana is a foreign relations officer stationed with the 162nd Brigade in Fort Polk, Louisiana, U.S.A. Lt. Col. Lopez is one of the first three officers in charge of the development of programs and training for the RAF.