The U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) undertakes a number of joint exercises in Latin America every year to engage with regional partners and address common threats. The exercises also provide opportunities for Military and civilian participants to share lessons learned, build capacities, provide humanitarian and civic assistance, and learn best practices from each of the partners involved.
Beyond the Horizon (BTH) and New Horizons (NH) are examples of SOUTHCOM-sponsored, joint engagement programs designed to provide humanitarian and civic assistance support throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean. The joint, interagency, and combined field training exercises are executed in the form of Humanitarian and Civic Assistance (HCA) construction projects, Medical Readiness Training Exercises (MEDRETEs), and Exercise Related Construction (ERC).
The primary purpose of the BTH and NH exercises is to train U.S. Military forces in their individual and collective skills to improve the capabilities that would be executed during war-time missions. The units train in engineering, medical, and sustainment tasks in the forms of construction projects of schools, clinics, community centers, and water wells, as well as medical engagements for underdeveloped communities.
SOUTHCOM initiated these HCA exercises in the region in 1983, when Active Duty and Reserve Component units were paired together to train in Panama. While the exercises in the early 1980s focused on building farm-to-market roads in Central America's underdeveloped regions, the exercises expanded and now encompass larger missions such as vertical construction projects and medical engagements that help local governments address the needs of underprivileged populations. These missions are part of SOUTHCOM's priorities, which also dovetail with the U.S. Department of State’s strategies to assist partner nations in need of social and economic development.
In 2016, under the leadership of U.S. Army South, SOUTHCOM's Army component, BTH, will encompass seven construction projects (five HCA and two ERC), and three MEDRETEs in Guatemala's San Marcos department. A total of 1,800 U.S. Military service members from all branches will train with 157 Guatemalan Army Troops and five apiece from the Colombian, Chilean, and Peruvian Armies, as well as five from both the Canadian Armed Forces and the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Forces. Additionally, the 2016 exercise will count on the participation of Guatemala's Education and Heath ministries, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and privately owned organizations (POOs).
For its part, NH 2016 plans to execute five construction projects – encompassing four clinics and a multipurpose facility – and eight specialized medical engagements consisting of urology, gynecology, orthopedic surgeries, plastic surgeries, and ear, nose, and throat surgeries in the Dominican Republic's María Trinidad Sánchez province. U.S. Air Force South is responsible for planning and executing this exercise, with a total of 435 U.S. Military service members from the Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps. They will perform the exercise with 120 Dominican Republic Army and five Canadian Armed Forces members, and participants from the Dominican Republic's ministries of Education and Health, NGOs, and POOs.
In addition to the invaluable training these exercises provide the U.S. Military, the residual impact of the HCA exercises, construction projects, and medical engagements provides the local populations of partner nations with long-term health and educational benefits. This inter-agency commitment to the region exemplifies SOUTHCOM’s desire to help strengthen and support security in the Americas.