Southern Star Shines Brightly in Chile
By Dialogo January 07, 2010CALDERIA, CHILE- The scenario paints a picture of insurgent control, oppression of the population, kidnappings, turmoil and death for the people of the “Republic of Morado.” Multinational stabilization forces are unable to control the insurgent attacks and request assistance from the United Nations. The U.N. Security Council resolution permits the deployment of a Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force to conduct peace enforcement operations. This is where Exercise Southern Star 2009 begins. Special Operations forces from four South American nations and the United States recently gathered in Chile to exercise their capability to command and control a multinational force conducting stability operations, while implementing a Security Council resolution. The purpose of the 10-day exercise was to increase interoperability and build participating nations’ capabilities to function as part of a multinational force, which in turn would increase their ability to deal with transnational threats. Southern Star is an annual joint, multinational training exercise sponsored by U.S. Southern Command, hosted in Chile and conducted almost exclusively in Spanish. The exercise forges together partner nations from the Southern Cone region of South America. Special Operations Command South from Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., was the lead U.S. military agency and coordinated the exercise. This was the third and largest year for Southern Star with nearly 850 participants from Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and the United States. Each country’s military sent a selection of different SOF and support specialties from their army, navy, air force and marine components to represent their respective countries during the exercise. Although the scenario was based in the fictitious location of the Republic of Morado, service members were postured in three main locations near Copiapó, the capital of Atacama Region, Chile. The first and largest was a base in Chañaral where all the operators were based and from where they conducted most of the missions against targets within striking distance. An operational detachment of U.S. Special Forces Soldiers embedded with the Chilean special operations forces also conducted training for the South American SOF on or near the base in Chañaral. The second location was home to the command center and was about 80 miles south in Calderilla. The Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force conducted command and control activities amid meeting the challenges of reacting to mortar attacks, protests and other civil disturbances to test their capabilities. The Joint Exercise Control Group operated just down the road at the third location in nearby Bahia Inglesa. Primarily composed of U.S. members of SOCSOUTH and the Chilean members from the Brigada de Operaciones Especiales (the Special Operations Brigade,) each member had a vested interest in ensuring the training was realistic as possible. They would frequently visit the nearby Combined Joint Special Operations Command to get realistic feedback on how the exercise was shaping up. The main differences from years past were the number of participating countries and the number of people involved from each country. In 2007, only two nations — Chile and the United States — were involved. Observers and staff members from Paraguay and Uruguay, as well as observers from Brazil joined the exercise in 2008. This was the first year that the tactical forces of Paraguay and Uruguay joined as participants and Brazilian staff members contributed at the CJSOTF. Brig. Gen. Hector Pagan, SOCSOUTH commander, said everyone worked together extremely well. “The connections that really matter are the connections between the countries in the region. It is important that the partner nations have a good relationship,” Pagan said. “That is really what is important, that long after we’re gone, these countries continue to interact and join in operations together,” Pagan added. At every level – tactical, operational and strategic – the soldiers shared knowledge and skills to accomplish the mission. The multinational force was challenged daily to perform a variety of missions including reconnaissance, direct action, combat search and rescue, maritime interdiction, hostage rescue and medical evacuation. The training was beneficial for the forces on the ground, in the air and at sea. “This was a great opportunity for everyone to see how important it is to work together. On the MIO (Maritime Interdiction Operation), we had Air Force snipers in Army helicopters while Marines were seizing the enemy’s boat,” said Chilean Air Force Maj. Claudio Alcázar Sichel. “It was great to be a part of that. The exercise was a good chance to test and share our procedures, techniques and tactics, equipment in use and combat experiences,” Alcázar Sichel said. As the scenario developed, three American hostages and one Moradian hostage were rescued, key locations and highway intersections were seized and controlled, and more than 100 insurgents were killed. A team from Special Operations Command –Joint Forces Command was also on hand as observer trainers to provide feedback and document any lessons learned or best practices. Lt. Col. James Rodney, the team leader, commended the CJSOTF on a job well done. He said there were many factors, such as a past working relationship and language commonality, that led to a seamless integration between countries. “It is a great exercise because, aside from the tactical play and running the operation, it gives countries a common cause for doing something together,” Pagan said. As for the future of Southern Star, Pagan said he would like to see it grow. “It has been a good vehicle for getting these countries together. We would like to continue doing it,” said Pagan.