Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet, hosted delegates from the Ecuadorian Navy for the annual Maritime Staff Talks (MST) June 25.
Annual MSTs support the U.S. maritime strategy, “Advantage at Sea,” by building and strengthening working relationships between U.S. and partner nations’ maritime forces.
“We are always grateful to work alongside our Ecuadorian partners,” said Rear Adm. Gabrielson. “These annual talks support detailed plans that enable growth in our strong relationship; Ecuador deserves credit for their steadfast progress and commitment to our relationship.”
Rear Adm. Gabrielson, along with Rear Admiral Brian Penoyer, commander of the Eleventh Coast Guard District; and Lieutenant Colonel Michael Aubry, security cooperation lead for U.S. Marine Corps Forces South, led the U.S. delegation. Rear Admiral Alejandro Villacis, chief of Staff of the Ecuadorian Navy, led the Ecuadorian delegation.
“The (MST) agenda not only delineates a common line of work but also establishes a structure of naval cooperation in which commitments, understandings, agreements, exchanges, especially as binational cooperation are highlighted and strengthened now and in subsequent years,” said Rear Adm. Villacis.
Delegates reviewed upcoming exercises to include PANAMAX 2022, a multinational exercise designed to ensure the defense of the Panama Canal, and UNITAS 2021, the longest-running international military training exercise in the world. Peru will host UNITAS LXII (62) later this year, building on Ecuador’s successful hosting of UNITAS LXI (61) in 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delegates also talked about future activities designed to improve operations, logistics, and training, and to increase maritime domain awareness. This includes future U.S. Coast Guard cutter and Navy ship visits to Ecuador and information exchanges focused on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which the U.S. Coast Guard now calls the leading global maritime security threat.
“Our MST with Ecuador served as a detailed look ahead to our future operations and exercises,” said Lieutenant Commander Windsor Frinell, U.S. Fourth Fleet Foreign Area officer. “These future activities, focused on improving interoperability, will help us reach our mutual objectives together.”
The MST serves as a comprehensive engagement venue for all bilateral maritime security cooperation activities. The U.S. and Ecuador conduct annual meetings to synchronize the numerous engagements that the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard schedule, plan, and execute with their Ecuadorian counterparts.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the talks occurred virtually via the All Partner Access Network (APAN) and the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS).
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American region.