U.S. and Paraguayan Special Forces Train Together
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo June 27, 2017Que buenas noticias que las fuerzas especiales de Paraguay y EEUU se entrenen contra las nuevas amenazas emergentes en la region A 45-member contingent of the Paraguayan Joint Special Forces Battalion (BCFE, per its Spanish acronym) is participating in the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET), along with approximately 20 troops from the U.S. Army 20th Special Forces Group. They are seeking to improve their techniques and tactics in the fight against criminal organizations. “This exercise is focused on exchanging training techniques and knowledge on weapons. We aim to acquire new skills for the fulfillment of our missions, such as the fight against criminal groups that operate in the north of Paraguay,” Colonel Pablo Halaburda, the BCFE commander, told Diálogo. As part of the cooperation between the two countries, on May 12th the Paraguayan Senate authorized entry for the U.S. military unit, along with their corresponding equipment, arms, and munitions, for use during the JCET training program June 5th-July 3rd at BCFE facilities in the capital, Asunción. According to the military practice program, the squadrons experiment with new combat skills and techniques such as daytime and nighttime urban combat, communication, information gathering, riot control as well as planning and mutual improvement of military professionalism. “All the military practices are implemented based on information provided by qualified U.S. personnel. They are executed with our assets and high levels of strategy, intelligence, concentration, and adrenaline,” Paraguayan Army First Lieutenant Fabián Ayala, a BCFE member, told Diálogo. This is his third time participating in the JCET training. One part of the training program focuses on conducting rescue- and hostage-recovery exercises in realistic settings. The goal is to expand the participants’ range of capacities, to improve the precision and teamwork of the elite units to strengthen their intelligence operations against terrorism and drug trafficking. According to 1st Lt. Ayala, the constant, ongoing front-line training means that members of the detachment get to know each other better. “You have more trust in those who are at your side when you know that they have the same training; it gives you more of a sense of security for completing the mission.” Created in 2009, the BCFE contingent comprises Paraguayan Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel. They are highly trained in different operational areas, especially for fighting terrorists, drug trafficking, and any special situations, according to the Paraguayan Armed Forces Command website. Decision making “With this training, we can fulfill any mission assigned by the leadership. From so much training, so many spent cartridges and so many repetitions, you get muscle memory and a mental agility that helps you make decisions on the fly, fast, precise, and accurate,” 1st. Lt. Ayala stressed. In recent years, Paraguayan authorities have fought the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP, per its Spanish acronym), the Armed Peasant Association, and other extremist groups engaged in kidnapping and extortion, as a means of financing their violent activity. The Paraguayan government has blamed EPP for several kidnappings and around 50 homicides since it was founded in 2008. According to the 2016 Global Terrorism Index, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, Paraguay has the second highest level of terrorism in South America. The report measures the impact of terrorism in 163 countries in terms of deaths, injuries, and property damage. “Combating and eradicating criminal structures is an elemental necessity for national security, so the special forces work to keep up their operational level,” Col. Halaburda said. Since 2009, 160 BCFE members have been trained by highly skilled commandos from the United States military. The battalion also has a “multiplier” effect since they train other conventional units of the Paraguayan Armed Forces. “Anyone who attacks, kills, and abducts innocent people or breaks the law will be brought to justice, either the easy way or the hard way. We are trained and ready. They [EPP] will lose,” Col. Halaburda stressed. A company of the elite Paraguayan unit is strategically cooperating on the objectives outlined against asymmetrical threats in several districts in northern Paraguay, especially in the departments of Concepción and San Pedro, areas where EPP is active. Beyond training The cooperation between the two countries’ armed forces dates back decades. According to Col. Halaburda, Paraguayan military members and police officers have been trained in and outside the country by U.S. forces in courses like “Civilian Careers for Defense” and “Interagency Counterterrorism Coordination.” They also have been trained to face the jungle. “These courses are very important because they allow the two countries and their armed forces to strengthen their bonds of friendship and cooperation. The training allows our guest troops to familiarize themselves with the terrain, the language, and to get to know our armed forces better,” he said. “Not only do we fight utilizing maneuvers but we go beyond the training to show them our culture. Every training is a great experience,” added 1st Lt. Ayala. Paraguay is also working on strengthening their collaboration with Colombia. They are shoring up and promoting bilateral cooperation mechanisms in the security and defense sector, with an emphasis on the development of advanced military education and training, technical military projects, scientific cooperation, human rights, and cybersecurity. “It would be good if the number of combined joint training were increased to several times per year like it used to be in the different armed forces units. We are always open to training with our counterparts,” Col. Halaburda concluded.