U.S. and Chilean Armies Build Roads in Southern Zone

U.S. and Chilean Armies Build Roads in Southern Zone

By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo
May 26, 2017

The Chilean Army, through its Military Works Corps (CMT, per its Spanish acronym), is working on various road construction projects in inhospitable and hard-to-build areas. The road construction will promote the country’s development and the free movement of residents. Twenty-three members of the U.S. Army’s Texas National Guard visited the Chileans’ worksites to learn the procedures used in the construction of these roads and bridges. This work is part of existing cooperation agreements between the two countries with respect to reciprocity of knowledge and experiences between institutions. In March, two detachments from the Texas National Guard visited Aysén and Tierra del Fuego, where the CMT, made up of military and civilian personnel, is engaged in land-connectivity projects. “No private business can develop projects in [these] tremendously inhospitable and hard-to-build zones,” Miguel Navarro, an expert on security and defense issues at Chile’s National Academy of Political and Strategic Studies, told Diálogo. The main projects will be performed by the Ministry of Public Works. The first detachment from the Texas National Guard, comprising three military engineers, was at the Yendengaia and Fagnano camps on Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego from March 15th to 20th, to take part in the first phase of project planning and surveying at Fagnano. A second training phase is planned for April 2018. Under inclement weather Participants had the opportunity to learn the best techniques used by the CMT in mining, particularly in the use of explosives to clear rocks from the road under construction between the Rassmusen River and Puerto Navarino to connect Chile with the Beagle Channel at the southern tip of the continent. “The U.S. Army has learned a lot about the technical and logistical work of the Chilean Army in projects it carries out in remote locations with hostile climates, which show its strong capability and preparedness for responding to the needs of the country,” said Lieutenant Colonel Paul Cemiauskas, commander of the Engineer Brigade of the Texas National Guard, in a press release generated by the Chilean Army. Goal within reach The 139-kilometer route is 88 percent completed, according to the Chilean Army. In 2018, the CMT will begin designing and building the final 15 kilometers in the Darwin mountain range, an extensive chain of mountains covered by ice fields. The route is expected to be in operation by 2022. “These are jobs that last for months. Our personnel build this infrastructure to high standards in difficult conditions. The complicated geography, with rocky surfaces, impenetrable vegetation, extreme weather conditions, and remoteness from supply centers constantly puts us to the test when carrying out these projects,” Lieutenant Colonel Gerardo Weisser, commander of the CMT regional headquarters in Coyhaique, told Diálogo. “The Chilean Army has significant experience to share with the U.S. Army and other armed forces around the world. The visit by the Texas National Guard reflects the excellent relationship that exists today between our two countries’ armed forces,” Navarro said. The second detachment, comprising 20 members of the Texas National Guard, was temporarily (from March 9th to 21st) integrated with the CMT’s work groups in the sectors of San Lorenzo and Río Bravo in Aysén, to conduct the second phase of engineer training on horizontal construction in remote areas. The first phase concluded in March 2015 in those same sectors. This second detachment made up of commissioned and noncommissioned engineer officers, equipment operators, mechanics, and transport personnel, expanded their capabilities in military construction, machinery operation, surveying, and mechanics. The U.S. service members supported the CMT in the construction efforts of 5 kilometers of road between the Cochrane-Pasarela Río Tranquilo-Entrada Mayer and the Ramal-Lago Brown-Frontera stretch. The 86-kilometer road will connect with Argentina to the east of the Chilean town of Cochrane. The CMT’s temporary team also assisted in the preliminary work of building four Meccano-style modular bridges with a 40-metric-ton load capacity to replace the wooden bridges that have outlived their useful life cycle. This project will be completed in January 2018. “The instruction given to our U.S. peers will enable them to make decisions right there, on the ground, so as not to lose continuity with projects due to the conditions or the distance,” Lt. Col. Weisser stressed. “Their efforts were meaningful in carrying out our work projects.” In 2016, the CMT built 26 kilometers of roads throughout the country. “That would seem to be a figure of little relevance,” indicates the Chilean Army’s 2016 Institutional Management Report, “however, there are two factors that measure the true value of this achievement – the difficult conditions in which our personnel do their work, and the value that these kilometers have in changing the lives of a community.” The construction work done by the CMT in these “inhospitable areas, where winter lasts year-round, reinforce the sovereignty of the nation, promoting regional and national growth and progress, increasing [national] cohesion, and creating new commercial relationships and an enormous opportunity for the development of tourism,” Navarro said. The most important part of the existing cooperation agreements between the U.S. and Chilean armed forces “is the integration of the two military institutions with each other, because there is a transfer of culture, knowledge, experience, and information that assists in complementing, developing, and strengthening the bonds of unity between the two armies,” Lt. Col. Weisser concluded.
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