In mid-October, during the Conference of American Armies (CAA), the Argentine Army led a specialized seminar on military leadership and command relations between military and civil authorities in an interagency environment – pilot case: Antarctica. CAA, the third of the 2018-2019 cycle, took place in Buenos Aires, October 15th-19th.
The objective of the conference was to showcase the international military cooperation on the white continent and promote armed forces’ initiatives and support for civil organizations in scientific expeditions and emergencies. The seminar also sought to strengthen the partnerships and interoperability among CAA members.
The “topic [international cooperation] is very important,” said Dominican Army Brigadier General Luis de León Rodríguez, CAA secretary general. “With the armed forces’ evolution in their different missions from a confrontation stage to one of coordination, it’s always important to focus on this kind of topic, a trend in today’s world.”
Key role of the armed forces
The conference featured lectures from army officers of Argentina, Chile, Spain, and Uruguay, who shared their experiences and presented recommendations to strengthen cooperation. The experts highlighted the key role of the armed forces in Antarctica as providers of the logistics support necessary to conduct scientific activities, maintain permanent and temporary bases, and transport scientists, materials, and equipment in the inhospitable area.
For example, Spanish Army Captain Valentín Carlos Benítez Martínez addressed the various research projects carried out during the Spanish Antarctic Campaign 2017-2018, which he led aboard the Spanish Navy’s oceanographic research vessel Hespérides. Of the 23 projects conducted, five were to support other countries with hundreds of service members and a total of 122 international researchers.
“To have the opportunity to lead a mission in Antarctica entails a great responsibility,” said Capt. Benítez. “It requires leading a highly skilled and select group of people and also supporting scientists doing research on the white continent.”
Global environmental barometer
For the scientific community and governments with shared interests in Antarctica and the world, this region acts as a global environmental barometer on issues related to ozone depletion, global warming, and the impact on biological systems. For these reasons, according to Lieutenant General Claudio Pasqualini, commander of the Argentine Army, “issues such as protecting the environment and natural resources [...] are important matters in this type of conference.”
Experts also addressed tasks carried out in the different Antarctic bases, while the Argentine and Chilean lecturers praised the combined work between the two countries, and especially between the Antarctic bases Esperanza, of Argentina, and O’Higgins, of Chile. As an example of cooperation, experts mentioned PARACACH, a combined rescue exercise conducted by the two nations’ armies. The annual exercise carried out since 2009 seeks to prepare the military in case of an emergency on the white continent.
“I had the chance to serve as exploring officer and as head of the Chilean Army’s Center of Antarctic Affairs in 2015 and 2016,” said Chilean Army Brigadier Germán Arias Athanaciu, military defense attaché at the Chilean Embassy in Argentina and a lecturer at the conference. “Our experience, training, and exchange of ideas [with Argentina] were very important outcomes.”
As part of the scheduled activities, participants visited some Argentine institutions that control and conduct scientific research on the white continent. Participants also headed to the Port of Buenos Aires to visit the Argentine Navy’s icebreaker ship ARA Almirante Irízar, a flagship of the Argentine Antarctic Campaign that assists every year with supplying the Antarctic bases of different countries.
“I believe that the objectives of this conference were met; personally, my expectations were exceeded. I still marvel at the approaches to manage aspects related to Antarctica,” said Brig. Gen. Rodríguez. “Fraternity among countries of the Americas is a concrete reality, as it was conceived by our founding fathers.”
Created in 1960 as a forum of Western Hemisphere army commanders, CAA is an international military organization consisting of 22 member nations of the Americas and the Caribbean and four observer countries, including Spain. CAA organizes biannual conferences and specialized exercises aimed at achieving better interoperability. The main topics of CAA in 2020-2021 will be interagency operations, environmental protection, and natural resources.
“These activities within CAA help integrate partner nations’ armies,” said Argentine Army Lieutenant General Justo Trevinarus, head of the Argentine Armed Forces’ Antarctic Joint Command, who presided over the conference. “They offer a space to get to know and develop new ideas on different topics.”