Colombia Participates in AMAZONLOG17

Colombia Participates in AMAZONLOG17

By Myriam Ortega/Diálogo
December 14, 2017

The military humanitarian logistics exercise AMAZONLOG17, held November 6th–13th, integrated the armed forces of the Amazonian tri-border area (Brazil, Colombia, and Peru) and simulated natural disasters. Eighteen members of the Colombian National Army General Staff joined the temporary multinational base in Tabatinga, Brazil.

“Both logistics and operational capacities were measured in a typical jungle environment, where communication and supply lines are more difficult,” Colombian Army Colonel Jorge Eduardo Cepeda Jiménez, director of the AMAZONLOG17 Multinational Exercise for the Colombian Army, told Diálogo. “This is the first time that such an exercise is done in the hemisphere, with participation of the tri-border nations.”

Colombian presence

The Colombian delegation consisted of the 26th Jungle Brigade, the Counternarcotics Infantry Brigade, the Military Health and Engineers Command, and the Development and Integral Action Support Command. “Colombia participated in the exercise with 145 men belonging to the disaster response brigade and 14 tons of medical supplies, food, and logistics equipment for the exercise,” Colombian Air Force Colonel Osman Eucardo González Ortiz, commander of the Amazonas Air Group, told Diálogo.

“During the planning of the exercise, we saw the need to involve the other forces,” Col. Cepeda said. “So, the Colombian Air Force and Navy joined in. Each contributed the necessary logistics for the exercise.”

The Colombian Air Force (FAC, in Spanish) transported Colombian personnel and cargo for the logistics deployment of the exercise in Leticia. “[FAC] participated with a Bell 212 helicopter equipped for rescue and medical evacuation missions, and an airplane capable of conducting special mobility operations, prepped for cargo drops, paratroopers, and large-scale medical evacuation,” Col. González said. “It also brought a C208 [airplane] capable of conducting command, control, and surveillance missions of affected areas.”

For its part, the Colombian Navy (ANC, in Spanish) put three motorboats, a ship, and two inflatable boats at the Army's disposition. “We all support each other. If anyone lacks something, there is someone from another force to supplement them,” ANC Lieutenant Commander Tomás Gabriel Contreras, commander of the Amazonas Coast Guard Station, told Diálogo.

General Staff members of the three countries planned the events and coordinated scenarios and strategies at the base in Tabatinga. Each country carried out most exercises in their own territory.

Colombia's first exercise was in Tabatinga and consisted of airdrops to supply a simulated isolated Colombian community in Brazil. “We simulated delivery of provisions, water, and medication to a [partially flooded] island that we could not otherwise reach,” Col. González said. “We needed to supply these types of supplies to ensure the people’s survival.”

Fantasy Island

Colombia's other exercises took place in its own territory and were based on a flood scenario on Fantasy Island—a wooden hamlet built on stilts in the middle of the Amazon River. The site—where people live in poverty— had a high flood risk.

“The exercise consisted of evacuating 120 people. The Navy first led a rescue unit from the Colombian Army,” Lt. Cmdr. Contreras said. “This unit was responsible for moving people toward the island's exit point on land. We did an extraction with our units to evacuate people and take them to Victoria Regia dock [in Leticia].”

ANC used the ARC Arauca vessel to command and control boats’ movement. “We had transport boats and a rapid response unit to escort people in case someone fell into the river,” Lt. Cmdr. Contreras said. “At night, we marked the area [with flares] to rescue people who were not evacuated on time during the day, so that the Air Force and Army helicopters could carry out the rescues.”

Synergy among forces

“We performed a mock evacuation of certain patients in critical condition who could not move on their own,” Col. González said. “Techniques used involved stretchers with safety hooks and a rescue long line.”

All people rescued were brought to the dock, where groups from Civil Defense, the Navy, the Army, and the Red Cross provided medical care. They were then transported to a campsite at the Stadium in Leticia.

“We prepared 100 tents with shelters. The Health Battalion, Integral Action, and Strategic Communications participated during the day,” Col. Cepeda said. “At night, in a mock situation, a family had lost a relative. We sent out thermal drones, activated a rescue group from the Aerial Assault Division, and performed the rescue.”

The exercise ended the next day with the community's return. “Those were hours filled with challenges and learning,” Col. González concluded. “When we dedicate forces or equipment solely and exclusively to these types of activities, everything flows in a very efficient manner.”