Strategic military operations such as Sodom (2010) and Armageddon (2012) have earned Joint Task Force Omega national and international recognition. The force has some 8,000 troops from the Colombian Army, Navy, and Air Force to protect citizens and territory in the departments of Meta, Caquetá, and Guaviare from the criminal activities of residual organized armed groups (GAO-r) and other criminal organizations.
Their commander, Colombian Army Brigadier General Royer Gómez Herrera, spoke with Diálogo about the joint, coordinated, interinstitutional operations the force carries out to bring security and stability to the region.
Diálogo: How are you helping to counteract the criminal actions of illegal groups that affect the stability and development of southeastern Colombia?
Colombian Army Brigadier General Royer Gómez Herrera, commander of Joint Task Force Omega: Since Joint Task Force Omega was formed, its vision has been to attack all the factors of instability that threaten the security of the population in the departments of Caquetá, Meta, and Guaviare. This area, which was the strategic rearguard of the extinct FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia], is still being defended by criminal organizations. We have residual armed groups that still try to intimidate the civilian population and that try, through narcotrafficking and other illicit economies, to exert pressure and terrorize them.
We are maintaining Joint Task Force Omega’s operational effort, with men deployed in area of operations to counter and confront this threat, which of course affects the region, but which ends up having implications at the national level.
Diálogo: What capabilities do you have to fulfill your mission?
Brig. Gen. Gómez: We bring together the best soldiers on land, represented by the Army; the best soldiers on the river, represented by our Navy’s marines; and the best soldiers in the air, represented by our Colombian Air Force’s pilots. We have differential capabilities based on training; they are professional soldiers who have special training to face the harsh conditions of the jungle areas in which we carry out operations — nearly 90,000 square kilometers, the vast majority of which are jungle areas — so we need well-trained and well-prepared men.
Diálogo: Joint Task Force Omega is known for successful strategic operations such as Operations Sodom (2010) and Armageddon (2012). How do you achieve successes of such magnitude?
Brig. Gen. Gómez: By employing very well-trained, well-equipped troops with very high morale. Joint Task Force Omega is a historic unit and is a unit that for the men of the Armed Forces is an honor and a privilege to be part of. That combat morale helps us to have not a normal soldier, but a different soldier, with a high level of training and a high morale for combat, aided by the means and capabilities available.
Diálogo: What results have you achieved in terms of the fight against environmental deforestation caused by narcotraffickers in the area?
Brig. Gen. Gómez: That’s quite a complex task. The area of operations of Joint Task Force Omega is mostly national natural parks, that is, protected areas such as the Serranía de Chiribiquete National Natural Park, the Serranía de la Macarena National Natural Park, the Tinigua National Natural Park, and the Picachos National Natural Park. We are facing a phenomenon that has hit these protected areas very hard, and that is the invasion of people who come from other regions of the country and who are causing deforestation and a very large-scale ecocide in these protected areas.
Diálogo: How are you linked to the national government’s Unified Action Acceleration Plan?
Brig. Gen. Gómez: This plan includes the national government’s Zonas Futuro (Future Zones) strategy, which seeks to accelerate the development program with a territorial focus to bring basic needs to remote regions of the country [where these are lacking]. We have some of these zones, since our area of operations includes the Chiribiquete National Natural Park and three others. In the strategy there is a strong infrastructure component for the construction of schools and colleges, health stations, pipelines, and sewage systems, and we have a fundamental part [to play] in that strategy, since it is largely supported by the security that we, the Military Forces, can guarantee. Of course, as Joint Task Force Omega, we are committed to everything that has to do with west Guaviare, southwest Meta department, and east Caquetá. For example, a very important project, to speak only of a project with a very large investment, is the construction of the Mesetas-Uribe highway, which allows us to bring development through infrastructure to some areas that were very affected by violence, and today their residents are able to travel on a paved road that connects this region of the Meta department with the capital Villavicencio and in the future with the center of the country, because the project includes connecting Mesetas-Uribe to later connect to the Pacific.