The Peruvian Navy and the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps displayed their capabilities through the combined, rapid-response, cross-sectional exercise Waves of Solidarity. The two navies, with long-standing coordination, put to the test their response capabilities for disaster and humanitarian assistance in a simulated magnitude 8.5 earthquake and tsunami in Chorrillos Bay, Lima, Peru, November 24, 2018.
The objective of the exercise was to increase training and coordinate the work of Peruvian institutions that conduct first response in humanitarian assistance and natural disaster operations. The training created a joint and combined environment to share tactics, techniques, and doctrinal procedures between both countries in case of a natural disaster in the Andean country or in the region.
“Collaboration means strengthening mutual trust by learning both navies and marines’ strengths and weaknesses,” Peruvian Navy Vice Admiral James Guido Thornberry Schiantarelli, commander of Pacific Operations, told Diálogo. “Through these exercises, we revise and update procedures and doctrine to give fluency to the tasks and achieve mission success.”
Deploying, securing, executing, withdrawing
During the operational deployment, an amphibious task force landed in the affected region to perform security, search and rescue, and humanitarian assistance supply operations. The multi-purpose U.S. Navy ship USS Somerset (LPD-25) and the Peruvian Navy’s BAP Pisco led the move. The Peruvian National Institute of Civil Defense led the operations with the participation of special forces, rescue brigades, police, firefighters, and Ministry of Health volunteers. Missile frigates, helicopters, boats, landing craft, and amphibious vehicles of both countries also took part.
The exercise consisted of four phases. First, participants deployed to secure the area. Then, humanitarian assistance was carried out in two waves of help. During the first wave, a security force was established due to the emergency, while in the second, participants purified water, and carried out search and rescue, debris removal simulation, and medical evacuations, all while assisting the people affected. The exercise ended with the fourth phase, which consisted of participants’ withdrawal.
The beach area that served as a backdrop for the activities was under renovation, with some structures in the process of being demolished, which enabled the setup of an appropriate stage for service members to conduct the mission. Its location within the coastal area of Lima made it possible to gather a large crowd, thus raising awareness about prevention among citizens.
“The key point of Waves of Solidarity was the capability to operate as a single, combined, and interinstitutional first-response force. The great challenge was to coordinate all participants, resources, and different languages,” Vice Adm. Thornberry said. Before the exercise, officials carried out planning, coordination, and rehearsal meetings. Every action and function to be assigned individually and collectively was exposed to adapt and integrate participants’ sea, air, and land force capabilities.
“It’s important to state that the Peruvian Navy already participated in different multinational exercises. That enabled service members to learn doctrine, tactics, and procedures supporting the operations of a multinational humanitarian task force,” Vice Adm. Thornberry said. “Waves of Solidarity is a step forward to work together and achieve common cooperation goals between both nations.”
Command and control capabilities
Peru and the United States are familiar with the severe consequences of natural disasters. “Our navies have the experience to provide first response and/or a complementary response with their own resources,” Peruvian Navy Rear Admiral Luis José Polar Figari, commander of the Surface Force, told Diálogo. “We can say that, after the exercise, command and control capabilities are good. They can be improved, but it’s clear that capabilities are adequate.”
According to the officer, the experiences of the Peruvian and U.S. navies complement their knowledge and help verify that procedures are common and appropriate for certain situations. “Bilateral and multinational exercises strengthen the actions of the military against their common enemies, such as narcotrafficking. States’ current threats and risks are transnational, and they require multinational responses and special preparation,” he added.
“One of Peru’s main strengths to respond to disaster is its caring population, which stands together and is conscious of its geographical reality,” Vice Adm. Thornberry said. Both he and Rear Adm. Polar agree that strengthening cooperation and the capacity to interoperate between national and international institutions through exercises such as Waves of Solidarity are needed.