MARFORSOUTH and partner nations hold Initial Planning Conference for UNITAS 2014
By Dialogo October 04, 2013
During the last week of September, members of the U. S. Marine Corps Forces South (MARFORSOUTH) and Navy and Marine forces from Brazil, Canada (Army), Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru came together in Miami, FL to initiate planning for UNITAS Partnership of the Americas 2014 (UNITAS-POA 2014). UNITAS POA is the Marine Corps amphibious phase to the Naval exercise UNITAS. UNITAS is an annual U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)-sponsored exercise representing a half-century legacy of naval cooperation in the Western Hemisphere.
This was the first time the Partner Nations (PN) sat down together to begin planning for Partnership of the Americas (POA) 2014. For 2014, POA will focus on improving the participants’ proficiency in the following environments: Countering Transnational Organized Crime; Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief; Military Operations other than War; Crisis Management; and Littoral Warfare, among others. POA began in 2006 as a company level multinational exchange engagement leveraging U.S. Navy ships and assets engaged in the exercise.
“The exercise is also the perfect venue to improve tactical interoperability among exercise participants in the areas of Command and Control; Common Operational Picture; Rules of Engagement; Doctrine, Logistics, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures; and others,” said Augustin Bolanio, Director of Exercises, MARFORSOUTH.
Recognizing the potential for a reduction in budgetary resources, the planning team has already considered reducing PN participation from one platoon (36-40 personnel) per participating country to one squad (14 people) per country. U.S. participation has been reduced from a regiment headquarters and battalion size unit with air and logistics support, to a company level unit with logistics-deterrence detachment support and battalion level leadership. Canadian and Mexican forces agreed to participate, and the Mexican Navy will conduct feasibility studies in providing a Mexican amphibious ship for the exercise. the concept of participation, and the availability of having a Mexican amphibious ship for the exercise is being considered.
“I think it is a very important activity among the exercises that SOUTHCOM does with its partner nations in the region. In this opportunity, Chile has been asked to host this amphibious exercise with a multinational view where partner nations will share amphibious operations experiences and interoperability capabilities in order to be able to provide support to a country that may be affected by a natural disaster," said Captain Claudio Escalona, Chilean Partner Nation Liaison Officer at SOUTHCOM.
UNITAS is normally conducted in two phases: Atlantic and Pacific. The purpose of UNITAS is to conduct interoperability exercises among multinational forces including matters related to training, combat doctrine, logistics, communication and other matters of inter-service interest.
The first seeds for UNITAS were planted in 1958, when the U.S. South Atlantic Force established it to counter Soviet naval activities in the South Atlantic. One year later, U.S. and major South American navies agreed to participate in a series of exercises with a visiting U.S. task-force.
UNITAS I was developed in 1960, with the participation of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, and the United States. From 1965-75, there was an increased sophistication of South American forces, paving the way for more advanced exercises. But from the end of the 1970s through 1994, multinational scenarios involving amphibious, surface warfare, and maritime search and rescue operations became the standard. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces also began to participate.
In 1999-2000 UNITAS split into two large-scale exercises: UNITAS Atlantic and UNITAS Pacific, and began to address new and emerging threats between 2001-2002, when advanced, complex, and relevant training and scenarios were adopted, including simultaneous and advanced air, surface, and sub-surface threats, advanced air defense, small boat threats, and maritime security.
Since 2006, POA has been executed in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay, Miami, and Camp Blanding in Jacksonville, Florida. Last year’s POA was cancelled due to budgetary constraints but in 2012 the exercise focused on amphibious operations and regimental amphibious staff planning in connection to Peace Keeping Operations.