US Navy Trainers, Chilean Special Forces Take Part in Month-Long Training Exchange
By Dialogo October 11, 2011
Geographically unique, Chile is more than 2,700 miles north to south yet only 150 miles east to west at its widest point. Chile’s military is tasked with defending more than 4,000 miles of border with the sea along South America’s western coast.
Expanding their capability to face this challenge, Chilean military officials welcomed a group of American special operations sailors during a four-week Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) that took place in Viña del Mar, Chile, during the month of September.
This JCET was the first formal training event between U.S. Navy Special Boat Team trainers assigned to Naval Special Warfare Unit Four, based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and members from the Chilean Comando de Fuerzas Especiales, known as the COMFUES.
Within the Chilean military, the COMFUES is considered a top-notch element of the nation’s security forces. Chilean Marine Major César Aguirre Rivera, who serves as the chief of training for the COMFUES, said the command and its personnel always look for ways to improve their skills. “We asked for this training in order to create a Special Boat Team in the command,” he said. “This has been a great experience for us, and we hope to continue this great communication with our U.S. partners.”
The JCET is part of Special Operations Command South’s Theater Security Cooperation program that enables partner nations to better protect their borders and increase their capacity to conduct special operations. SOCSOUTH is responsible for all U.S. Special Operations activities in the Caribbean, Central and South America and serves as a component for U.S. Southern Command.
Throughout the JCET, members of the Special Boat Team trained with their Chilean partners on skills and tactics such as Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS), a maritime boarding action designed to capture hostile vessels and high value target there may be onboard. Boat inserts and extraction techniques, live-fire water-board training and boat handling maneuvers on small tactical boats were also covered during the training.
Members of the COMFUES view this JCET as a great opportunity to learn from some very experienced U.S. Special Operations Forces. “Working with our American partners has been great because they have so much knowledge and skill,” said Chilean Marine Lieutenant Patricio Arriagada.
Established in 2005, the COMFUES is an operational level command comprised of 10 Special Operations Units – six Marine Commandos Regiments and four Combat Driver elements. The COMFUES’s mission is similar to its U.S. Special Operations Forces counterparts as it can perform direct action, surveillance and other tasks such as humanitarian relief.
The COMFUES already participated in several high-profiled events including humanitarian relief operations in Haiti following the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January 2010 and assisting their own nation just weeks later, when a 8.8 magnitude earthquake occurred in Chile leaving hundreds dead and millions displaced.
The JCET ended with a closing ceremony where each Chilean participant received a certificate of training from their American counterparts. “Their motivation and dedication is outstanding, and I would fight side by side with these guys any day,” said the Special Boat Team Chief in charge of the JCET.
Major Aguirre Rivera uttered those same sentiments and hopes this is just the first of many exchanges between the two nations.