The United States and Colombian armies are continually looking for ways to further strengthen the already rich partnership they share. The latest example of this comes as an infantry company from the Colombian Army was embedded with the U.S. Army 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, alongside U.S. soldiers from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (1st SFAB), during a recent Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) rotation at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
“The importance of this JRTC rotation with the Colombian Army is twofold: It helps the Colombian Army understand a new operational environment including how to operate in large scale combat operations, and it builds readiness for the U.S. Army,” said U.S. Army Major Joseph Macchiarella, U.S. Army South Colombia foreign area officer. “Third Brigade, along with the 1st SFAB, were able to train on their critical task to integrate allies and partner nation forces into operations as well as identify gaps in capabilities which will need to be addressed in the near future.”
When asked about the importance of military partnerships like that between the U.S. and Colombian armies, Colonel Richard Taylor, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division commander, discussed how strategic friendships and partnerships are the bedrock of any large organization.
“We know that the U.S. Army does not operate alone. Every opportunity to serve alongside our partner forces is a chance to strengthen bonds and establish trust,” he said. “Both traits are crucial for interoperability and ultimately allows us to jump, fight, and win on the hardest day of ground combat.”
Col. Taylor also commended the professionalism demonstrated throughout the rotation. “The soldiers and leaders of the Colombian Army are disciplined, lethal, and highly competent. Our paratroopers gained knowledge from serving with them throughout the rotation,” he said.
Though there are several challenges presented anytime two nations’ armies operate together, consistent, realistic training builds an understanding that can ease those concerns should this partnership be put to the test in a real-world operation.
“There are still many challenges to achieve interoperability, but combat training center rotations are the perfect scenario to identify shortfalls and work to find an immediate solution,” Maj. Macchiarella said at the conclusion of the rotation. “There were many lessons learned by all participants, and now the challenge remains on how to improve before the next big event.”
The military partnership between the U.S. and Colombia has been longstanding and in recent years the two nations began working together toward a common, more optimistic goal.
“Since 2021 the U.S. and Colombia have had a process of preparation and training a unit from the army with the goal of working up to a battalion level in order to improve and achieve true interoperability,” Major General Alvaro Vicente Pérez, deputy commander of the Colombian Army, said. “We started in 2021 working together at the platoon level and during this JRTC rotation we trained together at the company level.”
Training at the company level as opposed to the individual squad or platoon level provided a greater understanding of each other’s capabilities and tactics during a large-scale combat operations type of environment.
“The most important thing about training like this, after talking with our soldiers, is the opportunity to interact, train with, and understand the capabilities of other armies like the United States and see operations from another point of view,” Maj. Gen. Pérez said.
In addition to this U.S.-hosted JRTC training rotation, Colombia played host last fall to U.S. soldiers from both the Illinois and Georgia Army National Guard during Exercise Southern Vanguard 23 which was a two-week training exercise at Tolemaida Military Base in Colombia. The exercise included a Women, Peace, and Security panel discussion during which senior leaders from both armies shared experiences and ideas on furthering the roles of women in security efforts in their respective countries.