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Marines of the Americas Meet to Develop Strategies to Respond to Natural and Manmade Disasters

Marines of the Americas Meet to Develop Strategies to Respond to Natural and Manmade Disasters

By Dialogo
October 14, 2015

Some time ago, I read a report that said the U.S. has already structured the so-called "National Guard" to address disasters and other occurrences. They don't use trained soldiers for combat or dealing with occurrences of civilian nature such as catastrophes, because soldiers would need six months of intense training to revert back to being combative.
When the Armed Forces have no purpose in a 'Military Doctrine', there are many political or economic groups willing to use them for purposes other than the nature of their organization and training.
- By Humberto Castello Branco In Argentina peace freedom justice

Service members from 17 countries recently gathered for the 6th Marine Leaders of the Americas Conference (MLAC), where they developed strategies to provide humanitarian assistance in response to natural and man-made disasters.

Delegations from Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the U.S., and Uruguay met with Colombia, where the MLAC took place, to tackle the Western Hemisphere’s common problems.

“MLAC is meant to create a rich and valuable forum of mutual understanding,” Rear Admiral David Hardy, Commandant of the Chilean Marines, told Diálogo
. “[It's] also designed to benefit the Marines of different countries by taking advantage of the opportunity to share experiences and to continue relationships.”

Sharing experiences

In pursuit of those goals, the MLAC brings Marine officials from the Americas together to develop approaches to allow greater cooperation, such as the transferring of data, technology, and best practices among the militaries of different countries. The Commandant of the Colombian Marines, Major General Luis Jesús Suárez Castillo, and Lieutenant General Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, led the MLAC, which was held in the coastal city of Cartagena from August 24-26.

“The aim of MLAC is not to establish formal agreements. What it does seek is to develop common understandings of certain challenges and risks that exist in the region and to explore how to deal with certain problems jointly in the future...The main objective of the sixth conference was directed mostly toward the experiences Marines have had while providing humanitarian support – during natural or man-made disasters.”

They shared those experiences during multiple workshops, such as “The Four Stages of Military Response to Disasters;” “Experience of the Military During Disaster Support Missions in Chile;” and “The Regional Influence of Organized Crime and Its Effect on Humanitarian Assistance Operations and Disaster Response.”

Such discussions, Rear Adm. Hardy explained, create “a space in which (Marine officials) can broach topics of multilateral or bilateral interest...At this conference, we talked about the experiences Marines have had conducting missions in support of civilian authorities, rescues of disaster victims, and security and public order during natural disasters. We looked at all these topics from academic, judicial, and military points of view.”

Facing criminal threats

The MLAC also provided Marine officials the opportunity to discuss the best ways to counter the threats of international drug-trafficking groups and other transnational criminal organizations.

“The illicit trafficking of goods and the exploitation of natural resources affect society and the security of countries in the region. These threats are complex, transnational, and constantly changing. Sharing each country’s experiences is extremely important in defusing these threats. The main challenge Marines face is to maintain their reputation as a swift-acting force. The Marines are a military power with great flexibility and can be deployed in a number of different ways.”

Earthquakes and climate change

With regard to natural and man-made disasters, Marine officials discussed the challenges faced in their respective countries – including volcanoes, earthquakes, avalanches, hurricanes, and tsunamis.

Most recently, for example, the Chilean Armed Forces on September 16 quickly helped civilians following an 8.3-magnitude earthquake that caused a tsunami alert and had tsunami waves fan out across much of the Pacific Ocean. The quake caused 13 deaths, severely damaged 4,370, homes and destroyed 704 others.

But that wasn't an isolated incident - just a little more than five years ago on February 27, 2010, another quake struck Chile, this one registering 8.8 on the Richter scale, followed by a tsunami that killed more than 500. About 14,000 service members offered assistance in its wake.

Climate change is another challenge for countries in the Americas. The U.S. has learned much from the havoc wrought by Hurricane Katrina, which slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast in August 2005 and killed as many as 1,836 people and caused more than $100 billion in damage, Lieutenant General Neller said, according to El Heraldo

“It is important that there always be strong communication between regional and national authorities. Such planning and communication with the military will help to reduce the impact natural disasters have on communities at large.”

At the conference, which was held in Cartagena for a second time after the city hosted the 2nd MLAC in 2004, the leaders of each Marine Corps visited the Marine Training Base in Coveñas. That island is home to three recruit Battalions, based on the U.S. Marines' training camp model on Parris Island, South Carolina. Marine officials also visited the Specialists’ Center in Colmars, where non-commissioned officers become trainers for K-9 units in military and anti-explosive work. The MLAC ended with a closing ceremony, where Lt. Gen. Neller and Maj. Gen. Suárez recognized its participants.