Exercise Solidarity (Solidaridad), held November 7-10 in the Argentine province of Mendoza, provided the Argentine and Chilean armed forces with an opportunity to strengthen and improve their humanitarian assistance response capability in the event of emergencies.
“It was a civil protection exercise, where troops trained to be prepared for a natural catastrophe, such as a major earthquake with severe consequences,” Argentine Army Major General Ricardo Doz, commander of the 8th Mountain Brigade and director of the Solidarity exercise for the Argentine sector, told Diálogo on November 26.
A Hercules C-130 aircraft, helicopters, military vehicles, ambulances, boats, a mobile hospital, water purification plants, and communication equipment, were among the means used for the training. Tactical divers also took part in the exercise.
“There were 470 Argentine and 106 Chilean service members. In addition, in this type of operation, interagency work is necessary, as it is essential to coordinate with agencies such as the Red Cross, firefighters, police, public health, and other governmental entities,” Maj. Gen. Doz said.
Evacuation and wounded care drills, emergency water purification, decontamination of hazardous material, search and rescue in bodies of water and landslide zones were the main exercises, the Argentine Ministry of Defense told the press.
The mobile hospital that the Argentine troops deployed had 13 modules on trucks, with facilities for intensive care, laboratory, radiology, and hospitalization, and also had an oxygen converter, kitchen, electric generator, and a water purification system.
“Military and civilian doctors can work together to assist those injured in an earthquake,” Maj. Gen. Doz said. “In addition, the Emergency Zone Joint Command was created, which works at the request of the civil authority in the affected areas.”
One exercise consisted of dropping 16 tons of cargo in containers from a Hercules C-130 aircraft to simulate humanitarian aid. When the cargo made it on the ground, a helicopter landed to allow one of its crew members to detach the parachute and hook the cargo to the aircraft and transport it to the affected populations, Argentine news agency Télam reported.
In another fictitious scenario, an earthquake caused a collision, where a truck with chemical products caught fire, causing a toxic spill and injuring several people with severe burns. Faced with this situation, the Argentine Army mobilized a Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear Protection Unit, which together with firefighters controlled the spill and evacuated the victims in ambulances and helicopters.
At the Potrerillos Dam, Argentine and Chilean helicopters transferred tactical divers to a retaining wall, where they had to evaluate an underwater crack caused by the earthquake, which continued to flood the area causing injuries and fatalities.
“This training is very important and necessary because it helps to coordinate tasks between the armed forces in a natural disaster situation. Because of their great logistics and deployment capability, the armed forces are of great help in these situations and that is why these exercises are so important,” Argentine Defense Minister Jorge Taiana told the press as he toured the exercise venue.
“Solidarity is another example of the high level of mutual trust between both countries, from which we benefit and which we want to deepen,” Chilean Defense Undersecretary Gabriel Tapia told the press.
Solidarity is held every three years. The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Argentine and Chilean armed forces organize the exercise and establish the coordination and integration of work techniques.
“It was a very positive and enriching work, since knowledge is deepened and interoperability is put into practice, so that in case there is a need to act in a real situation, armed forces personnel understand how to operate in the field to help the population,” Maj. Gen. Doz concluded.