Mexico Hosts MLAC 2018
By Kay Valle/Diálogo April 27, 2018In mid-March, marine and naval infantry leaders and officers from across the Americas met to address common security issues. The 2018 Marine Leaders of the Americas Conference (MLAC) took place in Mexico City, Mexico, March 12th-16th.
Seventeen countries from across the Americas attended the seventh edition of MLAC. Military attachés from South Korea and the United Kingdom also participated. The U.S Marine Corps Forces, South- (MARFORSOUTH) sponsored event, was coordinated with support from the Mexican Marine Corps, which hosted MLAC for the first time.
The purpose of this triennial conference is to strengthen relations among marine officers and tighten the bonds of friendship among partner nations in the Americas. Together, officers review their operational efforts, common interests, and needs. They also developed action strategies to deal with regional threats.
“Those of us here today have a clear vision of our continent’s strategic value and of each of its regions,” Admiral Vidal Francisco Soberón Sanz, Secretary of the Mexican Navy, said at the event launch. “Thus, we believe that those of us who share these latitudes also share the same challenges and concerns.”
At MLAC 2018, participants focused on the support role of marine forces in upholding the rule of law. The conference provided an opportunity to learn about the scope of the region’s various marine corps and exchange knowledge to boost emergency response capabilities.
“MLAC 2018 […] reviewed the role of partner nations’ marine corps in supporting public security operations, such as how to deal with narcotrafficking activities and their legal limitations under police command,” Augustin Bolanio, director of Exercises for MARFORSOUTH, told Diálogo. “That is, under the command of the law enforcement agencies that are legally responsible for maintaining public order.”
The main topics at the conference—lectures from navy infantry and marine officers, who are experts in intelligence, terrorism, and political science—addressed the identity and values of the force, the legal aspects of its participation in upholding the rule of law, and its operational concept, among other issues. U.S. Marine Corps Major General David G. Bellon, commander of MARFORSOUTH, stressed the concept of multinational responses to regional crises.
“Maj. Gen. Bellon’s presentation, which came after the partner nations’ presentations, addressed the establishment of a multinational maritime force ready to provide humanitarian aid and assistance in any disaster in any region, as well as some level of law enforcement support, when requested by the host country in order to deal with certain threats from transnational organized crime, such as drug trafficking,” Bolanio explained. “[His presentation was] a very important contribution.”
Each marine or naval infantry commander participated in a bilateral meeting with Maj. Gen. Bellon to examine each country’s particular problems and how to deal with them through combined operations. Participants also discussed regional issues with the officers present.
“Each commander had the opportunity to hold bilateral meetings with all the other commanders from the various countries,” Commander Richard Dubón, spokesman for the Honduran Naval Force, told Diálogo. “They exchanged their experiences and their strategic and doctrinal perspectives on combat and on the factors that lead to violence and transnational crime.”
The Mexican Marine Corps leveraged the event to perform a demonstration of training exercises at its Specialized Marine Training and Readiness Center (CCAEIM, in Spanish). Located in Champotón in the southern Mexican state of Campeche, CCAEIM trains Mexican and international officers on tactics and techniques such as air infiltration, anti-narcotrafficking operations, and locating and neutralizing explosives.
MLAC’s origins date back to a bilateral meeting held in 1999, during which the commanders of the U.S. and Argentine Marine Corps considered establishing an inter-American military cooperation effort. The first MLAC was held in 2001 in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Over the years, leaders have focused on diverse topics, such as the challenges that forces face in the 21st century; operational issues in the fight against narcotrafficking, terrorism, and other transnational threats; and challenges to security and stabilization operations. In the latest editions of the event, MLAC included humanitarian assistance and disaster response among its topics.
For Honduras, whose Marine Corps was established in 2001, the experience was very positive. “The lessons learned and the strategies and doctrines of nations that have similar conflicts to our own go a long way to help strengthen our own doctrine so that we don’t make the same mistakes that other countries have made,” Cmdr. Dubón said. “We will continue to study these threats and counteract their activities through these efforts of cooperation, security, and brotherhood among our nations,” he concluded. The next MLAC is tentatively scheduled for 2021 in Miami, Florida.