Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/ U.S. Fourth Fleet, hosted delegates from the Chilean Navy for the annual Maritime Staff Talks (MST) July 22.
MSTs support the U.S. global strategy by building and strengthening working relationships between the U.S. and partner nations and improving interoperability through face-to-face meetings. This year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the talks occurred virtually. Representatives from the Chilean Navy, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Coast Guard participated in the event.
Rear Adm. Gabrielson, along with Major General Michael Fahey, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces South, led the U.S. delegation and Rear Admiral Pedro Abrego, commander of the Chilean Marine Corps, and Rear Admiral Jorge Parga, deputy chief of the Chilean Navy General Staff, led the Chilean delegation.
“Our relationship from the United States’ perspective is very strong, it’s very deep, and getting better,” said Rear Adm. Gabrielson. “It is our job to make sure that the path forward is clear and meaningful.”
MST topics included a review of upcoming scheduled war fighting operations and exercises over the next two years, and plans for education and training opportunities for Chilean personnel in the U.S., and U.S. personnel in Chile. Representatives also discussed COVID-19 lessons learned for both the United States and Chilean militaries.
“It is no mystery that we are living through unprecedented times sailing uncharted waters. The COVID-19 pandemic is still floating and the full extent of its impact is [not] yet known,” said Rear Adm. Parga. “This is a truly global crisis.”
The MST will serve as a comprehensive engagement venue for all bilateral maritime security cooperation activities. Over the past year, U.S. and Chilean navies have participated in many exercises including UNITAS and Fuerzas Comando. In addition, the U.S. is donating two field hospitals to Chile to support capacity for patients hospitalized due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All of these cooperative efforts enabled effective interoperability and aided each navy’s ability to work alongside one another.
“Despite these unique circumstances I am very happy to see that we are finally able to hold this important bilateral meeting,” said Rear Adm. Parga. “The MST provides us with a unique opportunity to expand our existing partnership and achieve an even greater level of cooperation.”