Colombian Army Colonel Héctor Iván Macías, Partner Nations Military Advisor (PNMA) at U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) since October 2020, has a very specific goal: to strengthen cooperation relations between the armed forces of his country and the United States.
With 29 years of military service, Col. Macías is one of 11 members of the PNMA, a program SOUTHCOM created in 1998, traditionally known as the Partner Nations Liaison Officer (PNLO) program. The PNMA increases mutual trust among participating countries, develops a higher level of teamwork, and establishes ties that help integrate and synchronize combined operations and plans.
Diálogo: How important is it for Colombia to take part in SOUTHCOM’s PNMA program?
Colonel Héctor Iván Macías, Partner Nations Military Advisor at SOUTHCOM: The PNMA helps us maintain bonds of friendship [and] cooperation, and exchange experiences between both countries. We have developed work plans that address efforts to contribute to regional security and the fight against transnational crime, enabling us to advance in the exchange of good practices and improve interoperability through bilateral exercises and training.
It’s important to highlight that for Colombia the fight against transnational crime is a shared responsibility. Due to the country’s accumulated experience in the fight against narcotrafficking, organized crime, and counterinsurgency, we have received security cooperation requests from the different armies of the region, and with SOUTHCOM’s support, we designed a regional security cooperation plan to build capabilities in Central America and the Caribbean.
Diálogo: SOUTHCOM has 11 PNMA officers. Why is it important for partner nations in the Western Hemisphere to join the program?
Col. Macías: Being part of the PNMA program is paramount, because it’s through the interaction and day-to-day life with partner army representatives that we get to know each country’s idiosyncrasy and vision in terms of security and defense. It also helps strengthen trust for exchanging experiences and expertise, which are decisive for consolidating regional security and our actions in the fight against transnational organized crime.
Being part of the PNMA program is paramount, because it’s through the interaction and day-to-day life with partner army representatives that we get to know each country’s idiosyncrasy and vision in terms of security and defense. It also helps strengthen trust for exchanging experiences and expertise, which are decisive for consolidating regional security and our actions in the fight against transnational organized crime,” Colombian Army Colonel Héctor Iván Macías, Partner Nation Military Advisor for U.S. Southern Command.
Diálogo: What are your goals as Colombia’s representative at SOUTHCOM?
Col. Macías: My goal is to facilitate communication and coordination to improve intelligence, cyber defense, special forces, and risk management capabilities through bilateral training and exercises.
Diálogo: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected Colombia, and how have the Military Forces helped civilian authorities?
Col. Macías: The coronavirus has affected the country substantially, especially in the public health and economic sectors. The pandemic has caused the death of more than 58,000 Colombians and has directly impacted the national, regional, and local economies.
The Colombian Military Forces launched Operation San Roque to carry out activities and implement measures to counter COVID-19. This plan has four lines of effort: The first one is to preserve force integrity, so that soldiers, sailors, infantrymen, and airmen remain healthy to accomplish the mission; the second line seeks to maintain operational capacity; the third one establishes continuity in conducting operations focused on neutralizing the actions of organized armed groups and instability factors and controlling the border; and the fourth line focuses on assisting the civilian authority and providing humanitarian relief to the population by making available military force capabilities. This plan allowed the Military Forces to quickly readapt to the pandemic circumstances to continue with the mission and maintain the governance exercised by the president of the Republic, local leaders, and institutions.
Through Operation San Roque, the Military Forces take part in the National Vaccination Plan against COVID-19, with a logistics and security strategy to accompany and support the vaccine’s receipt, storage, transportation, distribution, and administration throughout the country.
Diálogo: What lessons of cooperation do you hope to take to your country when you finish your mission at SOUTHCOM?
Col. Macías: One of the most important lessons that I will take to Colombia is understanding that the current scourge of narcotrafficking and other transnational crimes can be effectively tackled with assertive cooperation, under the logic of shared responsibility and reciprocal action between sister nations.