Chilean Armed Forces Initiate 70th Antarctic Campaign
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo November 28, 2016A group of 78 Chilean Armed Forces officers will provide operational and logistical support during the 70th Antarctic Campaign from November 14th through April 30, 2017. The mission is to safeguard human life and to support scientific activity on the white continent. The 21 Army, 25 Navy and 32 Air Force troops will relieve units deployed in the Polar region for the past year. “The replacement of crews in the region will conclude approximately at the end of November, after a hand off period of five to six days to receive and extract the military personnel that have been on the continent for one year,” Captain Manuel Silva, chief of Antarctic Affairs of the Chilean Joint Staff reported to Diálogo. During their stay in the southernmost region on Earth, the military personnel function as rescuers, explorers, finance specialists, meteorologists, helicopter pilots, radio operators, navigators, mechanics and nurses. Each underwent a complex selection and training process. “We had the proper training for this challenge for [six] months. This will allow us to be well prepared when we arrive in the white continent,” said Commander Octavio Rodríguez, future commander at Prat Base in Antarctica. Military training In addition to being trained at the Chilean Joint Peace Operations Center (CECOPAC, per its Spanish acronym), participants must also be trained by their respective institution in maritime, air, ground, and rescue operations. “Actually, all troops should have multifaceted capacities to be able to act in this fairly hostile territory that has often required the participation of the Chilean Armed Forces in support of serious situations,” said Capt. Silva. “Our Armed Forces are ready to face the main threats in Antarctica – geography and climate. Our forces have the equipment, the training, and education to confront certain adverse and hostile conditions,” David Rozowsky, executive director of the Chilean Safe Citizen Foundation said to Diálogo. In the beginning, troops were trained according to the experience available. “In these 70 years, we have developed a training that situates the Armed Forces as models in operations, with a lot of experience in this territory,” highlighted Capt. Silva. The Chilean military members will also support scientific efforts under the direction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH, per its Spanish acronym). Created in 1963, the institute is a scientific body under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During the campaigns, the team plans, coordinates and executes scientific and technological activities in the region. “We have the double name Armed Forces-INACH, a united team with excellent results, which has been recognized by many operators in the southern continent. INACH is engaged in scientific activity, and we give them guidance and confidence to efficiently and safely develop their activities. This has allowed us to carry out large-scale scientific projects,” said Capt. Silva. The Chilean and foreign scientists will begin their deployment between the last week of November and the first week of January, 2017. The summer season allows them to penetrate further into the white continent. Personnel participating in scientific activities are received at all the Armed Forces bases deployed throughout the continent. To carry out their scientific work, INACH employees are transported by two helicopters and four vessels operated by the Chilean Air Force and Navy. A lot of planning is needed to operate on this continent because it is not possible to work in every region. The Armed Forces tread carefully in protected areas and strive not to interfere with other scientific programs carried out by various countries that also operate in the region, such as Argentina and the United Kingdom. “It seems to us that the work our men and women do should be recognized by all Chileans,” National Minister of Defense José Antonio Gómez said on October 21st, during the send-off for the Antarctic crews at CECOPAC. Military authorities will use Aquiles vessels, the Fuentealba offshore patrol vessel, and the Admiral Óscar Viel icebreaker, which, in addition to doing support work for the bases, can perform topography work to develop the cartography of the southern region. The Viel, commanded by Captain Álvaro Flores, will do hydrographic work on the continental shelf and will perform maintenance on the signaling system composed of 60 beacons that create optimal conditions for navigation. Together, these ships will perform roughly 35 operations, transporting several metric tons of cargo and hundreds of cubic meters of fuel for the Chilean operations, as well as material for the repair and maintenance of the bases. This campaign marks Chile’s 70th year of operations in the Captain Arturo Prat Naval Base in Antarctica. The base was inaugurated on February 7, 1947, on the northern coast of Chile Bay [Discovery Bay], on Greenwich Island. This was the first Chilean base in the region. “We are going to celebrate with a lot of energy and a lot of excitement because the white continent is something that is very dynamic. Throughout these 70 years, the bases have been renewed every year, the personnel have honed their training, the incentive has grown, and the importance of the Antarctic continent has become increasingly greater,” said Capt. Silva. “We now have much more profound challenges than the initial ones, which were to establish a base.” “These are challenges that troops from our Armed Forces have faced for seven decades in adverse conditions. Thanks to this work, the Antarctic crews are practically permanent at all the bases, and we trust that this will be maintained for a long time,” concluded Rozowsky.