At the invitation of the Chilean Army’s Ground Operations Command (COT), a delegation from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), South Pacific Division, visited Chile for the first time to conduct training activities based on its Urban Search and Rescue Program, which the Military deploys in emergencies and disasters.
The joint operation took place within the
framework of “Cycle for Sharing Experiences in Emergencies and Catastrophes
with the United States Army – South/Corps of Engineers,” conducted June
6th-10th in an auditorium at the Chilean Army Engineering Command (CINGE) in
“Disasters occur all over the world and it is
important to know how to respond to these emergencies,” said Colonel Eric
McFadden, USACE Deputy Commander, South Pacific Division. “This is an
opportunity to exchange information regarding our organizations and take away
anything that allows us to improve our response capabilities.”
As part of its annual program for Education,
Instruction, and Training, COT scheduled this activity with USACE to learn
about its experiences with employing emergency units in support of search and
rescue during disasters, specifically in collapsed buildings. The activity was
organized by Colonel Juan Jara Lamas, Chief of the First Planning Department,
Chilean Army Ground Operations Command.
The U.S. delegation was led by Col. McFadden,
and included a team of three engineers with structural expertise from the
Search and Rescue (SAR) Team, who are members of the Task Forces available in
the event of a national or international emergency. Tom Niedernhofer, an
engineer and the head of the SAR program, was also part of the U.S. team.
The Chilean contingent included a group of 50
service members from the Engineering Command, specialists from various Army
Planning and Execution Bureaus throughout the country, and guests from the
Chilean Firefighter Search and Rescue team, who comprise a Task Force for catastrophes
that occur in the Andean nation.
“This was mutual cooperation between the two
Armies,” Col. Jara stated. “We held several lectures on how they operate in
emergencies, which will doubtlessly be a significant contribution to our work.”
The subjects taught focused on evaluating damage to buildings as a result of catastrophes; safe entry to buildings; and how to ensure mobility in a disaster site, allowing for the rescue and lifesaving operations to take place. The lessons were based on doctrine, classroom training programs, and standards for operations in response to a structural collapse.
USACE members explained the work they performed in the past, such as the 1995 attack on a government building in Oklahoma City, the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers in New York City, or the assistance they rendered after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Using these cases as illustration, they explained how the Military units are organized, how work is coordinated with civilian corps of engineers, how the warning processes are employed, planning, and how all teams are integrated to assist in emergency and disaster situations.
“It was especially interesting to learn about
the U.S. Army’s experiences to train our military teams for emergency events,”
Col. Jaras explained.
Floods and earthquakes
Personnel from the Chilean Army Ground
Operations Command and the Corps of Engineers spoke about their work during
various national emergencies and catastrophes, such as floods and earthquakes.
Master Sergeant José Gatica, a specialist in heavy machinery from the Chilean
Army’s Horizontal Engineering Company, discussed his experiences during the
2010 earthquake in Haiti.
The exchange activities also included a field trip
to the Chilean National Firefighters Academy, located 50 kilometers from
Santiago. At the Academy, USACE personnel demonstrated the equipment they use
to analyze collapsed structures and their work methods, while Chilean Army SAR
units demonstrated their work in search and rescue.
“Though both Armies have similar capabilities in
several respects, we approach the situations differently. The point is to be
able to learn so as to respond better to disasters,” Col. McFadden said.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers
consists of active-duty Military combat engineers and a corps of civilian
engineers. USACE has 32,000 professionals throughout the United States who have
been trained to respond to emergencies and disasters.
At the end of the lecture cycle, both countries’
delegations exchanged formal gifts and ceremonial salutes.
“It was an interesting experience
professionally, but also interesting because it reinforced the bonds of friendship
and camaraderie between the two Armies,” Col. McFadden stated.
Chilean and U.S. Armed Forces Train Together to Prepare for Disasters
| 6 July 2016
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