Exercise Integration 2017 Brings Together 16 Armies from the Americas
By Carolina Contreras/Diálogo July 10, 2017Military delegations from 16 North and South American armies worked with representatives from 14 Chilean civilian and governmental agencies on a natural disaster scenario within the framework of the Multinational Exercise Integration 2017, Specialized Conference on Interagency Operations. The meeting was held June 20th–23rd at the Chilean Army War Academy in Santiago. “[The exercise] will allow us to achieve clarity on how to move forward, and to test our capacities to confront complex adverse scenarios jointly,” Chilean Army General Humberto Oviedo, the commander in chief of the Chilean Army, said during the official ceremony. U.S. Army Major General Clarence K.K. Chinn, the commander of U.S. Army South and Lieutenant General Diego Suñer, the chief of the Joint Staff of Argentina, were present on opening day. The exercise, organized jointly by the armed forces of Argentina and Chile, consisted of a natural disaster simulation in different places within the national territory at the same time. The guest armies of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, the United States, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, and the Dominican Republic, along with the United Kingdom, as an observer country, made their human resources and equipment available, in a realistic setting, to mitigate the disaster and cooperate in the work of organizations responsible for managing emergencies in Chile. Joint emergency work During the three-day exercise, delegations from the 16 participating armies, and representatives from the Central American Armed Forces Conference (CFAC, per its Spanish acronym), interacted with representatives from the Chilean National Office for Emergency, the Carabineros Police, the Chilean Investigative Police, the Chilean Joint Staff, firefighters, the Red Cross, and the secretaries of Public Works, Energy, and Health, among others. All with the goal of training for planning, management, and coordination within an interagency framework to lend assistance during a disaster situation. “For the first time, such a large number of American armies are training in a coordinated manner to confront emergencies or to help a country that required assistance,” noted Chilean Army General Juan Eduardo González, the president of the Conference on Interagency Exercises of the Conference of American Armies (CEA, per its Spanish acronym). For the past three years, Chile has dealt with earthquakes, floods, and forest fires. Exercise Integration specifically simulated those types of natural disasters in a virtual manner. Six events were created, along with 52 large-scale tasks that were conducted simultaneously in different places throughout the country. These tasks had to be resolved with the collaboration of the American armies. The affected country, in this case, Chile, declared that its capacities were overwhelmed and that it needed international military support to mitigate the effects of the emergencies. The other countries offered their capabilities. For example, military personnel specialized in search and rescue, forest fire brigades, command support teams, logistics teams, as well as specialized military engineer teams, among others. As per military resources, consideration was given to cooperation through water purification plants, bridges, medical assistance, evacuation centers for individuals, field equipment, and resources for dealing with chemical, biological and radiation emergencies, among other things. Training was developed through the Chilean Army System of Emergency Training Management, a technological tool that uses a role-playing system designed to teach decision-making to units and organizations that operate during different phases of an emergency. The system stores the tasks and coordinated efforts in a database. It thus allows for quantifying the levels of preparedness and the improvement of collaborative management for participating bodies. They also put into operation the Argentine Army System of Geographic Information and the Brazilian Army Interagency Environment Operations Guide. “The most difficult scenarios were able to be defined, like problems and barriers at the international level, in order to mitigate work in an efficient and timely manner,” said Chilean Army Colonel Javier Leguizamón, the military emergency assistance director of the Argentine Joint Staff. Thus, the 52 tasks designed for the training were resolved through the combined effort of military and civilian entities under a centralized control responsible for formulating the assistance work and assigning tasks to the different agencies operating on site during a disaster. “Getting to know each other and verifying and coordinating the different capacities coming from outside the country was a tremendous challenge for us to work together on emergency solutions,” Col. Leguizamón said. The training was divided into four sessions, with the last session held on June 22nd. On June 23rd there were roundtable discussions, an elaboration of conclusions and a closing ceremony. “One hundred percent of our expectations were fulfilled,” Col. Leguizamón said. “We gathered impressions from the delegation heads and it has been a valuable occasion for interaction,” he added. After the exercise was completed, a report was prepared, which will be forwarded and presented at the Commanders' Conference of the American Armies, scheduled for November in the United States. The next XXXIII cycle of CEA (2018-2019) will be hosted by the Dominican Republic. CEA's background CEA was founded in 1960 as a forum for debates, to exchange experiences among armies throughout the hemisphere, and with the goal of finding integrated solutions to real problems that could affect one or more countries at the same time. It is comprised of armies from 20 countries, five armies with observer status, and two military organizations acting as observers: the Conference of Central American Armed Forces and the Inter-American Defense Board. CEA functions on the basis of biannual cycles in which a specific topic is defined to be analyzed throughout that cycle with specialized exercises and conferences. To become a member of CEA, an army must declare its interest in participating in the multilateral organization. After two years as an observer, it has the opportunity to become an active member. Any country that wishes to maintain its status as an observer may do so.