The Mexican Department of the Navy (SEMAR, in Spanish) completed its participation in Bold Alligator 2017 (BA17), an amphibious combat exercise. The U.S. Marine Corps holds the annual exercise since 2011. For the 2017 edition, navies of Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States (the host country) got together at Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia, October 10th–November 5th, 2017.
“Interoperating with NATO partner nations increases our level of cooperation, which has a positive impact on security,” said to Diálogo Mexican Navy Captain Antonio Morales Hernández, director of the Training and Preparedness Section at SEMAR. “To participate as an integral member of the coalition represents [Mexico’s] commitment to regional security.”
SEMAR participated with more than 400 personnel consisting of a Marine Corps company, a Special Forces team, the Amphibious Assault Vessel ARM Papaloapan, and a helicopter. Mexico attended BA13 and BA14 as an observer, and became part of the organization’s team in BA16. The last two exercises were simulations to plan for BA17.
SEMAR was an active participant in the planning and execution of conventional combat operations in BA17. In 2017, the exercise focused on improving and standardizing multinational coalition’s capacities in a joint operation to respond to an international crisis situation.
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which struck coastal cities across the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico in September and October, affected the timing and nature of BA17. However, international forces still gained the necessary capacities and teamwork to set the stage for future amphibious exercises.
“Bold Alligator 2017 provided opportunities to develop and update new concepts in conventional warfare tactics, techniques, procedures, equipment, and technology,” Capt. Morales said. “International forces conducted amphibious vehicle embarkation and landing exercises, urban combat, flag signals, patrol tactics, and live fire of organic weapons.”
Among the main operations, marines from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Mexico carried out operations where Mexican Special Forces used helicopters to drop military elements into the sea under risky conditions to board a warship and get ashore to reach their objective. Amphibious operations were conducted in the area of Onslow Bay, in North Carolina.
SEMAR also took part in the amphibious landing of 13 vehicles. “The main mission was to take and secure the beach zone where U.S. ships carried out the rest of the landings,” Mexican Navy Lieutenant Commander Ruth Peress Salvatori told Diálogo. “Time and landing capacities are key to carry out other ground operations.”
The Mexican Navy implemented combat missions in urban areas as well as helicopter insertions and extractions in coordination with U.S. and Chilean Navy special reconnaissance teams. Elite SEMAR units carried out ship landing maneuvers, working in tandem with U.S. marines on aquatic inspection exercises.
An ongoing effort
“In addition to boosting command, control, and communications capacities, Bold Alligator strengthened our bonds of friendship and interoperability,” Capt. Morales said. “It showed the world that members of NATO’s naval forces constantly work together and are ready to face various hemispheric security challenges, such as emergencies or natural disasters.”
Participating armed forces assessed the operational range of their special forces and regular units. “It was very important to gain the trust and recognition of our allied armed forces upon demonstrating that our capacities and readiness are at the level needed to carry out joint operations,” Lt. Cmdr. Peress said.
“It’s vitally important that we be ready to face new threats to security and stability,” Capt. Morales added. “Technological advances contributed to a quicker development of new threats. The reaction time [to deal with them] is a determining factor for national defense. Cooperation and integration are essential to successfully control these kinds of threats,” he concluded.