After thirteen days of hard work, members of the Armed Forces of Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and the United States, concluded the military exercise Partnership of the Americas on September 16 in Camp Blanding, a U.S. National Guard base.
On the last day, participants could not contain their smiles of satisfaction for a job fulfilled to the letter, as instructed by military rules. Mission accomplished they expressed without actual words, standing in the command room of the base, south of Jacksonville, Florida.
Partnership of the Americas covered the land portion of UNITAS which, after 53 years, is still the main and oldest naval exercise in the U.S. Southern Command area of operations. UNITAS is being carried out from September 17 to September 28 in Key West, Florida.
Since 2006, Partnership of the Americas has been conducted in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru (twice), Chile, and the United States. This year, the U.S. Marine Corps Forces South (MARFORSOUTH) was in charge of the exercise, which kicked off on September 3. “Our goal each year is to bring together all the Marine Corps of the Western Hemisphere in order to work as a team on tactical operations on air, land and sea to develop missions for the support of peace, sovereignty defense, and humanitarian assistance in all SOUTHCOM’s partner nations,” Colonel Agustín Bolanio, director of Partnership of the Americas 2012, told Diálogo.
With three training areas that encompass a total of 220 square kilometers, 50 shooting ranges, two urban training centers with 16 buildings, a bridge, a tunnel, a natural lake and several other water bodies that are used to simulate riverine operations, Camp Blanding turned out to be the ideal scenario for the exercise.
As in previous iterations, the event aimed at learning from each other, preparing and exchanging information and techniques between militaries from different countries. “North America’s partners show their southern partners how to execute peacekeeping and amphibious operations, as well as how to respond to disasters in urban areas. In turn, South American partner nations show their skills and expertise in jungle guerrilla tactics, riverine operations, humanitarian assistance missions, and natural disaster relief response,” Captain Julián Cajas, Ecuadorean Marine Corps Commander told Diálogo.
Partnership for the Americas gives participants the opportunity to obtain academic and practical training in the development of necessary skills to plan and execute missions, as part of a multinational military force. These exercises are focused on action planning and deployment of personnel and resources, according to a specific plan.
At Camp Blanding, the training rooms resembled the United Nations conference room, where translators play a decisive role in the correct understanding of proposals, ideas, and orders execution. The participants were communicating in three different languages: English, Spanish, and Portuguese. “It is not easy, especially if you are not used to thinking in a language that you don’t generally use every day. But you get used to it, and then you even find it enjoyable,” said Lieutenant Commander José Álvarez, with the Chilean Marine Corps.
In order to practice what they learned in the classroom, participants flew helicopters and fighter aircrafts through skies of the military base, crossed the lakes in fast motor boats, patrolled streets and roads in motor vehicles and on foot, and performed surveillance with snipers hiding on strategic points, camouflaged among the foliage.
“Nobody knows for sure the scope of disaster that an earthquake or a flood might cause”, said Captain Jonatas Magalhães, Brazilian Landing Troops Commander, and explained that the Armed Forces of Brazil are prepared to respond promptly and efficiently if required. “Thanks largely to these military exercises,” he assured.