In early October, Argentine and Chilean service members conducted annual Exercise Southern Cross 2018, of the Southern Cross Joint and Combined Peace Force—the force comprises elements of both countries’ three military branches. Exercise Southern Cross 2018 took place at the Chilean Army War Academy’s (ACAGUE, in Spanish) Tactical Operational Training Center (CEOTAC, in Spanish) in Santiago, October 1st-5th.
The objective of the exercise was to increase combined interoperability and improve officers’ planning and management skills. The tabletop exercise also helped strengthen bonds of friendship between the neighboring countries.
“This kind of exercise is very important,” said Navy Rear Admiral Alejandro Miguel García Sobral, chief of Operations of the Argentine Armed Forces’ Operational Command. “This is where service members develop doctrines and, most importantly, mutual awareness. They also practice tasks and procedures that will be carried out when the Southern Cross Peace Force is deployed.”
A total of 100 elements, 72 units of the Chilean Armed Forces and 28 from Argentina, gathered at CEOTAC for a peacekeeping simulation exercise in a realistic environment. In the fictitious scenario, participants organized the deployment of the Southern Cross Peace Force in a fictitious country shaken by violent acts that jeopardized the peace and security of the population.
Faced with this situation, the United Nations (UN) Security Council issued a resolution to stabilize the territory through a Blue Helmets-led peacekeeping operation that would restore order. The scenarios enabled participants to plan, lead troops, and adopt resolutions based on UN guidelines.
“It’s a binational initiative that comes from the highest level,” said Rear Adm. García. “The armed forces were involved in an excellent initiative, where the three branches come together and make a force available to the UN to reinforce, help, or maintain world peace.”
To conduct the exercise, CEOTAC made available its Emergency Situation Management and Training Simulation System (SIGEN, in Spanish). The high-technology tool facilitated information management, collaborative decision-making, and response optimization through role-playing.
SIGEN also enabled the evaluation of participants’ levels of expertise, allowing them to learn from their achievements and mistakes to improve force performance in the future. “This way, we can collaborate so that both countries are better prepared to deploy at the UN’s request,” said Chilean Army Colonel Arturo Gallardo, head of CEOTAC.
At the UN’s disposal
The Southern Cross Joint and Combined Peace Force goes back to 2006, when the governments of Argentina and Chile signed an agreement to create the Combined Joint Chiefs of Staff and form a binational force that would be at the UN’s disposal. In 2011, Argentina and Chile officially made the joint and combined force available to the UN before then-UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon.
The force consists of two infantry battalions including army and marine elements from both countries, as well as a logistics support unit. It also has a naval component with two ships and an air component with eight aircraft.
Every year, members of the armed forces of both countries carry out tabletop and practical exercises to maintain their skills. Argentina and Chile take turns hosting the exercises.
“I must say, I’ve seen a notable improvement and increase in training in the joint-combined aspect [of the force],” said Navy Vice Admiral Rodrigo Álvarez Aguirre, deputy commander of the Chilean Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Undoubtedly, there are many things left to do, but we’ve always been on the right track, which speaks highly of us all.”
A serious job
For participants, the exercise was a success. According to Army Major General Carlos Pérez Aquino, operational commander of the Argentine Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff, the demanding nature of SIGEN and its various tasks demonstrated the professionalism of Argentine and Chilean service members.
“We achieved a good outcome and did a serious job,” Maj. Gen. Pérez concluded. “These exercises help peacekeeping operations, to have better knowledge. I’ve had the opportunity to follow the evolution of Southern Cross closely, and you can see the interoperability and how military interaction progresses.”