Colombia, Guatemala and U.S., Collaborate During Civil Affairs SMEE

Colombia, Guatemala and U.S., Collaborate During Civil Affairs SMEE

By Dialogo
May 08, 2013

Civil Affairs officers from U.S. Southern Command and Special Operations Command South facilitated a Colombian-led Civil Affairs Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with Guatemalan Civil Affairs (CA) counterparts in Guatemala, from April 23-25 to develop a strategy to increase Guatemala’s Civil Affairs capacity to disrupt transnational organized criminal activities in minimally governed areas.

The SMEE was designed to provide the Civil Affairs representatives with a forum for sharing best practices in Civil Military Operations (CMO) and Civil Affairs Operations (CAO), and to discuss future CA focused engagement opportunities to complement U.S. Southern Command efforts in countering transnational organized crime (CTOC).

“One of the outcomes we would like to see from this is SMEE is that Colombia and Guatemala have some type of civil affairs instructor exchange between the two countries,” said Army Capt. Roger Garcia, Civil Affairs Team leader in Guatemala. “This way they can actually share and learn from each other on a more permanent basis.”

This SMEE, along with future exchanges, was conducted in order to equip participants with the tools and skills needed to assess communities, prioritize needs, and coordinate resources and efforts with the critical objective of improving the quality of life of Guatemalan citizens. Exchanges like these provide an opportunity for the two countries to learn from each other and to share best practices in working within the areas of CMO and CAO.

“Both Guatemala and Colombia talked about their current situations, their strengths, their weaknesses, their successes, what they need to improve on, and of course, how to apply them here in Guatemala,” said Army Maj. Steve Caceres, the Theater Civil Affairs Engagement Program executive officer at SOCSOUTH. “Obviously the threats are not exactly the same in both countries, but they’re similar, and it’s extremely valuable to have them share their experiences.”

Elements of this exchange included discussions on doctrine, organization, education, materiel and equipment, experiences and lessons learned. Ideas from these discussions culminated in working groups where solutions were presented to the entire group on the final day of the SMEE. The end product would then be presented to the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense for solutions and/or recommendations on the way ahead.

“This has been a very good venue to share experiences between the militaries of Colombia and Guatemala,” said Juan Correa, a defense information officer from Colombia. “We both have practices that are helpful to each other, and this is a great opportunity to strengthen our civil affairs capabilities.”

Representatives from all participating nations said they anticipate continuing to strengthen their relationships and improve interoperability with the Civil Affairs knowledge they gained during the SMEE. Guatemalan participants will be able to go back to their commands and educate their units on what they learned and said they are looking forward to other events like this with their Colombian counterparts.