The Chilean and Peruvian armies ended 2018 with a simulated humanitarian response exercise in the border area both countries share. Exercise Army Understanding 2018 (Concordia Ejército, in Spanish) gathered the 1st Armored Brigade “Cuirassiers” of the Chilean Army’s 6th Division, based in Arica, and the Peruvian Army’s 3rd Cavalry Brigade, based in Tacna.
Conducted for the first time, the tabletop exercise was carried out in Arica under the Tactical Operational Training Center (CEOTAC, in Spanish) of the Chilean Army’s War College. For three days in late November, participants tested their knowledge facing natural disasters through the Simulation System for Emergency Situation Management and Training, a program CEOTAC developed to virtually coordinate and evaluate the different institutions involved in civil protection.
The goal of Army Understanding 2018 was to develop logistics aspects to provide a combined humanitarian response to natural disasters. The army also sought to reinforce protocols to deploy supporting units to troubled areas, as well as the use of telecommunications equipment.
“I think it’s a very important milestone for relations between our armies and our two nations in the diplomatic arena,” said Chilean Army Brigadier General Cristóbal de la Cerda Rodríguez, director of operations and commander of the 1st Armored Brigade “Cuirassiers” during Army Understanding 2018. “It was an extremely important achievement.”
The fictitious scenario of Army Understanding 2018 consisted of an earthquake followed by a tsunami that affected the port town of Arica in northern Chile and the Tacna region in the extreme south of Peru. Although the natural disasters hit both areas, according to the scenario, the Chilean region, left without land or maritime access, suffered more.
“As part of the simulation, [the Peruvian Army] had capabilities that it made available to the Chilean government,” Brig. Gen. De la Cerda told Diálogo. “When the Chilean government saw its capabilities surpassed, it accepted this support, and [the Peruvian Army] deployed an engineering unit and a welfare unit.”
Participants— 60 officers of which 14 were from the Peruvian Army— executed more than 2,000 coordinated actions to test their response and interoperability capabilities. In one of the scenarios, the officers confronted difficulties in getting through customs, accidents with military vehicles, health issues, and logistics issues related to victim rescues.
“Without a doubt, the goal of this exercise is to save lives immediately,” said Peruvian Army Colonel Raúl Enrique Devoto Uribe, commander of the Peruvian delegation. “That’s why it’s important to use this exercise as an immediate solution.”
According to Brig. Gen. De la Cerda, exercise Army Understanding 2018 has been in the making since the 2000s. The enduring friendship between both institutions, particularly between the border units that face similar emergency situations due to their geographical location, gave rise to the humanitarian exercise.
“For more than 30 years, there has been an ongoing and institutional link between the two border units,” said Brig. Gen. De la Cerda. “They gradually signed permanent and temporary agreements, and in 2004 adopted this measure of mutual trust and integration related to this binational disaster and emergency exercise.”
For Brig. Gen. De la Cerda, being able to conduct the exercise successfully was the priority. The scenarios will help strengthen the troops’ skills and allow for a better focus on areas that need improvement.
“We were able to verify some coordinated actions that can be improved to optimize the deployment and response times when providing disaster support,” the officer said. “The simulated events performed during the exercise might have been exaggerated, but obviously they provide experience and the chance to agree on new protocols.”
The exercise will be conducted annually, on a rotational basis. The Peruvian Army will host Army Understanding 2019 in Tacna.
“This is a major step we’re making to strengthen the bonds of mutual trust and cooperation,” Col. Devoto concluded. “The main beneficiaries are the people of Arica and Tacna.”