Argentina and Chile Strengthen Disaster Response
By Juan Delgado/Diálogo January 07, 2019In mid-November 2018, the Argentine and Chilean armed forces conducted two joint and combined humanitarian assistance exercises. The tabletop exercises took place simultaneously in both countries, November 12-16.
Exercise Solidarity 2018 was conducted at the Chilean War Academy’s Tactical Operational Training Center (CEOTAC, in Spanish) in Santiago. Exercise Southern Patagonia 1 was conducted at the Argentine Army’s Rospentek Military Garrison, in Río Gallegos, a city in the Argentine Patagonia. A total of 90 service members gathered for Solidarity 2018, under the coordination of the joint chiefs of staff of Argentina and Chile. In addition, 80 elements of the neighboring countries’ armies took part in Southern Patagonia 1.
The objective of both exercises was to check on staff’s preparation in case of emergencies or natural disasters. Through the exercises, the forces seek to reinforce coordination and interoperability among their troops.
“I think the exchange between the branches of the Chilean and Argentine armed forces with all the support institutions of each country—not only police, but also governmental institutions—is very important for help in case of disaster,” said Chilean Navy Vice Admiral Rodrigo Álvarez Aguirre, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “This is why we are very excited.”
Exercise Solidarity 2018
Solidarity 2018 sought to check on existing doctrinal plans and procedures between Argentina and Chile, as well as their integration in the civil protection systems of both nations. On this occasion, the military conducted a natural disaster simulation featuring a magnitude 8.9 earthquake on the Richter scale and a subsequent tsunami in the city of Concepción, in the Chilean coastal Biobío region.
Participants planned troop and equipment deployment in the area to evacuate the population and conduct search-and-rescue operations in collapsed structures, among other activities. They also planned civil institutions’ assistance to provide first aid and basic supplies.
“Based on the protocols, a country affected by a disaster can ask their counterpart for assistance,” Argentine Army Colonel Lucilo López Meyer, head of Assistance and Emergency at the Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Diálogo. “This activates the whole system in which the affected country prepares the resources needed to complement the capabilities of the host nation.”
The exercise that began in 2001 is conducted in three-year cycles that include planning, tabletop exercise, and execution on the ground—to be conducted in 2019. Countries alternate as hosts.
The exercise with troops, with dates yet to be determined, will be conducted in Concepción, with the support of land, air, and naval resources of both countries. Participants will put to the test what was devised during the tabletop exercise with evacuation operations, rescues, and underwater searches, among others.
Southern Patagonia 1
Elements of the Argentine Army’s 11th Mechanized Brigade and the Chilean Army’s 5th Division carried out the first edition of Exercise Southern Patagonia. Representatives of the Argentine Air Force and the Gendarmerie, as well as police forces of Santa Cruz, an Argentine province that shares borders with Chile, also participated.
According to the scenario, a series of natural disasters—a strong earthquake, the eruption of a volcano, and heavy snow—resulted in a large number of victims and severe property damage in the border area between Puerto Natales, Chile, and Río Turbio, Argentina. To respond to the emergency, the armies of both countries formed the Combined Specific Command that planned joint and combined rescue and civil protection operations with other institutions, as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations.
“Southern Patagonia 1 had errors and successes,” said Argentine Army Brigadier General Fernando Mauricio Ros, commander of the 11th Mechanized Brigade. “The experience exchange will help improve the combined planning process that, in the long term, will make decision-making more efficient in the face of natural disasters.”
Argentina and Chile share a border of more than 5,000 kilometers along the Andes mountain range, which is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the most volcanic- and seismic-prone area worldwide. The countries signed several cooperation agreements and bilateral treaties to act in case of a disaster in the border region.
“As part of the treaties, both countries’ joint chiefs of staff formulated the Rules [for the operation of the Chilean-Argentine Mixed Commission] for Cooperation in Case of Disaster,” Col. López said. “That’s why joint and combined cooperation exercises are conducted, dealing with different themes related to emergencies and natural disasters.”
According to Col. López, the exercises were a success and strengthened both armed forces’ cooperation capabilities. Carrying out the exercises in a joint and combined way also allowed participants to take note of weaker points in need of more work.
“Mutual knowledge is necessary to ensure operations are executed efficiently, no matter what kind they are,” said Col. López. “Knowing the people we work with makes us all more efficient. It mutually boosts our capabilities, which strengthens us individually and as a group.”