Colombian National Army Troops Trained to Protect the Environment

Colombian National Army Troops Trained to Protect the Environment

By Dialogo
February 09, 2015




As part of its ongoing efforts to protect the country’s natural resources, the Colombian National Army and the government have certified the first 167 Soldiers trained in environmental defense and protection.These are the first Colombian Troops to receive training in reforestation, the conservation of ecosystems, and recycling programs.

The Office of Environmental Management of the Army’s Seventh Division and the Secretariat of the Environment of the Government of Antioquia “certified the country’s first environmental Soldiers, as part of a pioneering environmental education process in Colombia” stated a December 17 press release from the Ministry of the Environment.

The environmental training was provided to 131 members of the Fourth Brigade of Medellín, 20 from the Fourteenth Brigade of Puerto Berrío, and 16 who are with the Seventeenth Brigade of Carepa.

These Soldiers are dedicated to conducting activities related to environmental education, community organization of environmental management, and protecting renewable natural resources, according to the Secretariat of the Environment.

Training for the first 90 environmental Troops took place from early 2014 through July. A second group of 77 Soldiers were trained in the second half of 2014, and all 167 environmental Troops were certified in December, according to Medellín daily, El Colombiano.


A major effort to protect the environment


“This was a major effort by the Army to prepare the Soldiers in the care of natural resources and ecology,” said Colonel Germán Rojas, commander of the XVII Brigade, according to journalist Rodrigo Martínez in the Colombian environmental blog Evaluación Impactos Ambientales.


“Environmental Soldiers are not only going to strengthen us as a brigade, they will serve to raise awareness and work with the civilian population in regions such as Urabá and Bajo Atrato where there is illegal mining and illegal logging in the tropical forests,” Rojas added.

Illegal mining, which is prevalent in the municipalities of Unguía and Acandí in the Urabá region and in several kilometers along the border with Panama, harms the environment. So does illegal mining, which is used by narcotrafficking organizations such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to fund their operations.

The new environmental Soldiers will play an important role in raising awareness about the monitoring and surveillance conducted by the Navy, the National Police, and the territorial institutions charged with preventing the illegal trafficking of wild flora and fauna.

Environmental Troops will also participate in reforestation projects and supporting ecosystem conservation tasks, such as monitoring the operation of wastewater treatment plans and recycling programs. They may also participate in environmental revitalization projects in parks and public spaces.

Soldiers had shown interest in protecting the environment


The Troops were selected due to their interest in protecting the environment and experience in at least an environmental project or high school concentration in agriculture, ecology, the environment, natural sciences or similar, and having worked in support of the environment in their communities.

“This is part of an Armed Forces recruitment transformation program under the framework of providing a service that allows certain young people an entryway into the Armed Forces. This provides them with another type of experience,” said Rubén Sánchez, a security analyst with the University of Rosario, in Bogotá.

The program shows that the Military provides a wide range of career opportunities for young people and broadens the ways in which Troops can help the civilian population.

“This shows that Soldiers aren’t made solely for war. In addition to protecting Colombians, we’re also made for peace,” environmental Soldier Jorge Luis Nerys said after graduating, according to a report in El Colombiano.


The environmental initiative also helps the Military attract greater numbers of recruits who may consider a career in the Armed Forces, as well as attract young people who want to protect the environment.

“The Colombian government is interested in having more professional Soldiers who can carry out tasks that aren’t necessarily limited to the battlefield. This is an opportunity for young people,” according to security analyst Sánchez.


A strict certification process


Nerys and other newly graduated environmental Soldiers passed a strict certification process.

The certification of Troops to defend and protect the environment and natural resources is being carried out in accordance with the country's Environmental Law and the support of the Medellín Office of the Mayor; the authorities of the Department of National Parks; and the Arví Park, an ecological nature preserve and archaeological site in Medellín.

Colombia’s Environmental Law 99 of 1993 establishes that 20 percent of high school graduates incorporated into the ranks must serve as environmental Soldiers.

For regular Troops, the law stipulates mandatory service that ranges from 18 to 24 months; a Soldier with a high school diploma must serve for 12 months and Troops from farming backgrounds must serve for 18 months.

Training environmental Soldiers is part of the Colombian National Army's history of protecting the environment.

Since 2001, the Colombian National Army has provided a variety of training programs designed to protect the environment, according to the “Environmental Handbook for the Tactical Units of the National Army, 2009.”

By interacting with communities as they protect natural resources, environmental Soldiers will also strengthen the National Army's ties with the civilian population, according to Sánchez.



As part of its ongoing efforts to protect the country’s natural resources, the Colombian National Army and the government have certified the first 167 Soldiers trained in environmental defense and protection.These are the first Colombian Troops to receive training in reforestation, the conservation of ecosystems, and recycling programs.

The Office of Environmental Management of the Army’s Seventh Division and the Secretariat of the Environment of the Government of Antioquia “certified the country’s first environmental Soldiers, as part of a pioneering environmental education process in Colombia” stated a December 17 press release from the Ministry of the Environment.

The environmental training was provided to 131 members of the Fourth Brigade of Medellín, 20 from the Fourteenth Brigade of Puerto Berrío, and 16 who are with the Seventeenth Brigade of Carepa.

These Soldiers are dedicated to conducting activities related to environmental education, community organization of environmental management, and protecting renewable natural resources, according to the Secretariat of the Environment.

Training for the first 90 environmental Troops took place from early 2014 through July. A second group of 77 Soldiers were trained in the second half of 2014, and all 167 environmental Troops were certified in December, according to Medellín daily, El Colombiano.


A major effort to protect the environment


“This was a major effort by the Army to prepare the Soldiers in the care of natural resources and ecology,” said Colonel Germán Rojas, commander of the XVII Brigade, according to journalist Rodrigo Martínez in the Colombian environmental blog Evaluación Impactos Ambientales.


“Environmental Soldiers are not only going to strengthen us as a brigade, they will serve to raise awareness and work with the civilian population in regions such as Urabá and Bajo Atrato where there is illegal mining and illegal logging in the tropical forests,” Rojas added.

Illegal mining, which is prevalent in the municipalities of Unguía and Acandí in the Urabá region and in several kilometers along the border with Panama, harms the environment. So does illegal mining, which is used by narcotrafficking organizations such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to fund their operations.

The new environmental Soldiers will play an important role in raising awareness about the monitoring and surveillance conducted by the Navy, the National Police, and the territorial institutions charged with preventing the illegal trafficking of wild flora and fauna.

Environmental Troops will also participate in reforestation projects and supporting ecosystem conservation tasks, such as monitoring the operation of wastewater treatment plans and recycling programs. They may also participate in environmental revitalization projects in parks and public spaces.

Soldiers had shown interest in protecting the environment


The Troops were selected due to their interest in protecting the environment and experience in at least an environmental project or high school concentration in agriculture, ecology, the environment, natural sciences or similar, and having worked in support of the environment in their communities.

“This is part of an Armed Forces recruitment transformation program under the framework of providing a service that allows certain young people an entryway into the Armed Forces. This provides them with another type of experience,” said Rubén Sánchez, a security analyst with the University of Rosario, in Bogotá.

The program shows that the Military provides a wide range of career opportunities for young people and broadens the ways in which Troops can help the civilian population.

“This shows that Soldiers aren’t made solely for war. In addition to protecting Colombians, we’re also made for peace,” environmental Soldier Jorge Luis Nerys said after graduating, according to a report in El Colombiano.


The environmental initiative also helps the Military attract greater numbers of recruits who may consider a career in the Armed Forces, as well as attract young people who want to protect the environment.

“The Colombian government is interested in having more professional Soldiers who can carry out tasks that aren’t necessarily limited to the battlefield. This is an opportunity for young people,” according to security analyst Sánchez.


A strict certification process


Nerys and other newly graduated environmental Soldiers passed a strict certification process.

The certification of Troops to defend and protect the environment and natural resources is being carried out in accordance with the country's Environmental Law and the support of the Medellín Office of the Mayor; the authorities of the Department of National Parks; and the Arví Park, an ecological nature preserve and archaeological site in Medellín.

Colombia’s Environmental Law 99 of 1993 establishes that 20 percent of high school graduates incorporated into the ranks must serve as environmental Soldiers.

For regular Troops, the law stipulates mandatory service that ranges from 18 to 24 months; a Soldier with a high school diploma must serve for 12 months and Troops from farming backgrounds must serve for 18 months.

Training environmental Soldiers is part of the Colombian National Army's history of protecting the environment.

Since 2001, the Colombian National Army has provided a variety of training programs designed to protect the environment, according to the “Environmental Handbook for the Tactical Units of the National Army, 2009.”

By interacting with communities as they protect natural resources, environmental Soldiers will also strengthen the National Army's ties with the civilian population, according to Sánchez.
I herebly congratulate the Army of Colombia for this very important initiative for all mankind. I hope other countries become aware of the idea and multiply the initiative. Strength and Honor.
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