SOUTHCOM Fosters Partner Nation Liaison Officer Program
By Dialogo March 21, 2012
The United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) established the Partner Nation Liaison Officer (PNLO) Program in 1998, with the focus of establishing links with U.S. partner nations in Central and South America and the Caribbean that would serve as a conduit to foster a better understanding of mission and tactics, facilitate the ability to integrate and synchronize operations, assist in the transfer of vital information, enhance mutual trust, and develop an increased level of teamwork.
Developed in close coordination with regional defense leaders, the program has hosted military liaison officers from seven South American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, as well as Canada since its inception.
The U.S. Armed Forces Joint Publication (JP) 3-16, on Multinational Operations, highlights the importance of the program as one that facilitates understanding, coordination, interoperability enhancement, and contributes significantly to mission success.
U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Ed Lluberes, who currently heads the PNLO program at SOUTHCOM, told Diálogo that all countries in the region have been invited to participate in the program, but not all are able to participate.
Among many responsibilities, as representatives of their countries’ armed forces at SOUTHCOM, the partner nation liaison officers play a pivotal role in improving the inter-operability of U.S. forces by maintaining the positive relationships between partner nations.
They are an integral part of the SOUTHCOM staff and provide cultural and operational insight, recommendations and perspectives on key issues to SOUTHCOM senior leaders and staff; contribute directly to the command’s regional engagement planning activities; and routinely accompany U.S. senior military and defense leaders on official travel to their countries.
“Most importantly, they can become our spokesmen on the way we [U.S.] do things”, said Lieutenant Colonel Ed Lluberes.
Currently, there are five representatives of different branches of the armed forces of Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia and Peru assigned to SOUTHCOM’s Political Military Affairs Division within the Strategy, Policy and Plans directorate.
Commander Alexandre da Silva of the Fuzileiros Navais (Marines) of the Brazilian Navy arrived at his SOUTHCOM post in February 2012, after serving as commander of the Military Police Company in the Marine Logistics Command at the Brazilian Marine Corps Headquarters.
Lieutenant Colonel Bruno Vielle joined SOUTHCOM in June 2011 from the Canadian Army’s Infantry Division, where he graduated as an Infantry Officer assigned to the Royal 22nd Regiment in 1988.
Captain Claudio Escalona of the Marine Corps of the Chilean Navy is a Marine Amphibious Warfare and Artillery Officer who took his post in SOUTHCOM in February 2012. Capt. Escalona has ample experience in Peace Keeping Operations and most recently served as commander of the Chilean Battalion in the United Nations Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) in Haiti.
Colonel José Alejandro Forero joined the SOUTHCOM staff in July 2011 as an Infantry Officer from the Colombian Army. He arrived in Miami as an experienced officer in all combat mission areas, including Airborne, Counterinsurgency Warfare, Command and Control and Human Rights.
An important contribution by Col. Forero lies in his ample experience in countering illegal armed groups, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), to which he dedicated a great part of his military career. In fact, Col. Forero’s hands-on participation in the Colombian Army’s operations to rescue FARC hostages, including three U.S. contractors kidnapped in 2003, provides great insight to SOUTHCOM.
Colonel Carlos Orlando Ríos of the Peruvian Army took his SOUTHCOM post in March 2011. He also comes to Miami with great familiarity in combat mission areas and peace keeping operations. It is notable that since many of the officers come from a strictly operational background, their assignment at SOUTHCOM provides them with a completely new experience from which they take back important lessons and new ideas to their countries.
On the other hand, they provide unique know-how from events that their own countries are undergoing. For example, the former Chilean PNLO assigned to SOUTHCOM, Chilean Navy Captain Luis Felipe Bravo, arrived in Miami only 10 days before the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck his country in February 2010. Capt. Bravo provided invaluable service as the primary link to the Chilean Command Authorities during the massive event.
In talking about the program, General Douglas Fraser, Commander USSOUTHCOM, said, “Partner Nation Liaison Officers increase our understanding of the region in ways we would otherwise not know, from specific contributions to the SOUTHCOM staff, to exercises, distinguished visitor visits, or educating the staff as a whole. They have clearly proven invaluable in providing continuity and transparency required to enhance regional security, stability, and prosperity in the Americas.”