Ecuadorian Army Colonel Rodrigo Peñaherrera serves on the Ecuadorian Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff as an Operations officer for Joint Task Force Esmeraldas. The force was created in early June 2022 to support the National Police in the fight against narcotrafficking in the province of Esmeraldas, on the border with Colombia. Col. Peñaherrera was sent to San Antonio, Texas, as Ecuador’s highest ranking officer to take part in annual multinational exercise PANAMAX. Col. Peñaherrera took a break from his duties as PANAMAX 2022 head of Civil Affairs to speak with Diálogo.
Diálogo: How do you compare civil-military affairs in Ecuador with what the United States is doing?
Ecuadorian Army Colonel Rodrigo Peñaherrera: The structure run by the U.S. here is not the same than ours. They manage the Department of Civil Affairs independently, while we manage the Department of Civil Affairs within Personnel. So, within Personnel, we also handle Health, which in many situations here is handled individually. We also have fewer organizations — here they are called Js and there are nine of them, and in Ecuador they are named Cs, and there are only four — and we’re within Information Operations, which also keeps an eye on cyber defense.
Diálogo: What are the benefits for Ecuador to take part in this exercise?
Col. Peñaherrera: The benefits are many, because here, aside from being a part of the exercise, we can exchange experiences with the militaries of other participating countries and, based on their experiences, analyze what is useful to us and what we can apply in our country. My experiences may be useful to them, perhaps as a reference point so that if this situation arises in their country, they may solve it in a way similar to what we did.
Diálogo: What is one of the main lessons learned in this exercise, in your opinion?
Col. Peñaherrera: I think that in our country we have to make certain changes in our doctrine in order to adapt to the doctrine of the United States. Maybe when we come to this type of exercise, we can identify with the type of work that is done here, because every change generates positive things, and if it is for the good of the country and for the good of the institution, why not do it? Because in this specific case here the organization is not the same, but if I go to a similar organization in the future, it’ll be easier for me to perform.
So, it’s very enriching for us to continue participating in this type of exercise. We gain experience, we get to know the experiences of other countries, and we see what we could implement in our country or improve.