The Chilean Armed Forces began 2018 with positive results. Strategic planning, defense policy modernization, joint and peacekeeping operations, disaster response, and humanitarian aid are some of the activities that keep the men and women of the Chilean Armed Forces working together with dedication and professionalism.
For Major General Arturo Merino Núñez, chief of the Chilean Joint Chiefs of Staff (EMCO, in Spanish), the institutional results are promising. As commander of land, naval, air, and combined forces assigned to operations, Maj. Gen. Merino vouches for the continued progress of the Chilean Armed Forces in 2018.
Diálogo interviewed Maj. Gen. Merino in Santiago, Chile, to discuss EMCO’s progress, Chile’s peacekeeping operations, threats to the country’s security, and the Armed Forces’ cooperation in the region.
Diálogo: In July 2017, EMCO celebrated seven years since it changed its name. How do you see the advances and level of interoperability among the Chilean Armed Forces?
Major General Arturo Merino Núñez, chief of the Chilean Joint Chiefs of Staff: In recent years, EMCO established itself as an efficient structure to carry out its functions, especially in areas such as planning and directing forces, commanding forces in peacekeeping operations, and in the effective coordination of resources to provide support in emergencies and natural disasters. This enabled us to present ourselves as a mature organization, meet our obligations with a high degree of responsibility and effort, and effectively using our available capacities, because we understand the overarching purpose of the work we do and its direct impact on defense and security. Pursuant to the policy guidance of the Minister of Defense, this effort has been undertaken through a doctrine of continual openness, working jointly and integrally with the armed forces in such a way as to benefit from their experience and capabilities.
EMCO has been fully engaged with other agencies in the sector, making cross-disciplinary contributions on most of the issues that these organizations deal with. This allowed us to provide a strategic vision on a series of initiatives such as drafting the new National Defense book, bolstering our joint services structure, developing a new methodology for defense industry planning, and implementing the gender agenda, among others.
Diálogo: What were EMCO’s results in 2017 and what is your forecast for 2018?
Maj. Gen. Merino: The results have been quite positive, as we worked with great dedication and professionalism in different areas, such as planning and strategic management. We updated our current planning, and modernized our national defense policy, in coordination with the armed forces and support from the Undersecretariat of Defense. In the area of training, we developed important exercises—events that represented true advances in conducting joint operations by including innovative ways of planning, managing, controlling, and executing the maneuvers, giving a boost to the activity and adding more value to those kinds of exercises.
In 2017, we undertook a number of international activities using joint and combined forces that afforded EMCO and the armed forces a good deal of experience in areas such as crisis management, peacekeeping operations, use of special forces, emergency and disaster response, interoperability of forces, and use of forces in operations other than warfare. In general, the results were quite positive, since we achieved most of our goals. In 2018, we expect more positive results through refining and improving our objectives and setting new goals.
Diálogo: What are the major threats to security that Chile faces, and what is the role of the Armed Forces to counter them?
Maj. Gen. Merino: Like the vast majority of countries, the threats the Chilean state faces fit the concept of multidimensional threats, as is the case with arms trafficking, organized crime, drug trafficking, cyberthreats, and terrorism. Law enforcement faces such threats directly. But the armed forces cooperate indirectly with their presence in isolated areas, residual information, and control of maritime and air spaces.
Diálogo: What lessons did the Chilean Armed Forces and National Police learn after nearly 13 years in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti?
Maj. Gen. Merino: We’ve had many different experiences from our 13 years of contributing to world peace and regional stability. No doubt, the most important lessons were in the operational experiences that our soldiers, sailors, and airmen have had serving in a highly complex situation in which peace and stability were achieved to support the holding of presidential elections for a Haitian government in 2017. Also, operating alongside the armed forces of other nations with different cultures, equipment, and languages, in some cases, was, excellent training for our personnel.
The question of logistics—which has to do with maintaining a support force on the ground, with engineers and helicopters operating 365 days a year at a distance of nearly 7,000 kilometers from their home bases in Chile—was an excellent opportunity for logistics and financial planning, not to mention the multipurpose capabilities demonstrated in support of natural disasters, public order, evacuations, protection, and transport duties.
In turn, the police, which deployed independently as experts in peacekeeping operations, carried out multiple security and public order tasks in conjunction with the police of other nations, allowing for experiences and operational methods to be shared in different settings that were highly complex and ever-changing.
Diálogo: Chile has peacekeeping personnel deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, India, Pakistan, the Middle East, and the Central African Republic. What progress have the armed forces made in those countries?
Maj. Gen. Merino: Significant progress was made. The military personnel deployed in contingents or as observers or advisers at headquarters fully complied with international mandates authorizing the deployment of military assets to each of these regions, their presence being essential to achieve sustainable advancements in peacekeeping and prevent clashes between the parties to the conflict.
Diálogo: What cooperation programs do the Chilean Armed Forces have with other Latin American and Caribbean militaries, and especially with Chile’s neighbors and the United States?
Maj. Gen. Merino: One of the programs our Armed Forces are involved in is the Defense Cooperation Program for Central America and the Caribbean (PCDCAC, in Spanish), which is led by the Ministry of Defense. The Undersecretariat of Defense [of Chile] gives policy guidance on the program and EMCO is the program’s military coordinator. PCDCAC’s objective is to provide support and training to Central American and the Caribbean nations on defense issues relating to doctrine, education, military training, military logistics management and maintenance, and disaster management, among others.
With the United States, we have the State Partnership Program between Chile and the state of Texas, which has been ongoing since 2009. It’s a program for defense cooperation on issues of common interest, to increase the level of interaction between the parties and form the basis for relations among the organizations participating on behalf of Chile, EMCO, and the armed forces institutions of Texas, including the Texas Military Department and the Texas National Guard. The ultimate goal of this program is to share knowledge and experience for the Joint Staff to analyze and plan in the areas of personnel, operations, logistics, international relations, peacekeeping operations, disaster response, and other areas of interest, providing an opportunity to attain higher levels of mutual cooperation for interoperability between both our armed forces.
Diálogo: What advances were made in the level of women’s participation in the Chilean Armed Forces?
Maj. Gen. Merino: Women first began joining the Chilean Armed Forces in 1974, following the creation of the Female Auxiliary Service Academy, where women served as social workers, secretaries, preschool teachers, etc. Later, in 1995, the first women were admitted to the Army’s main academies. In 2000, women began joining the Air Force Academy, and by 2007, they were finally being admitted to the Naval Academy. Not all our service branches have female conscripts within their ranks. Professional female soldiers exist only in the Army. In 2017, the Chilean Air Force integrated women service members, whereas the Navy plans to do so in 2018.
We can demonstrate significant advances in defense institutions. Over time, our female members themselves have asked that they be considered for service in all areas, just as their male peers are, and this change has been very well received by all members of our institutions. The percentage of female versus male service members has increased since they first began being admitted to the main military academies. In March 2017, a law was passed establishing a coed career path for men and women, allowing anyone to rise to the rank of brigadier general, thereby deepening women’s integration in the Army.
Diálogo: What is the importance of the Chilean military’s humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts in support of other state agencies or partner nations? What training do they do for that kind of mission?
Maj. Gen. Merino: The military assists with and is a part of the National Civil Protection System (SNPC, in Spanish). Throughout the risk management process, they contribute to the system according to their capacities and the versatility of assets at the community, provincial, regional, and national levels. The built-in technical support capacities of our military institutions include infrastructure, technology, and a range of resources to accomplish tasks that allow us to meet social needs to provide support to the various government bodies tasked with delivering the maximum level of preparedness during emergencies and/or natural disasters.
The Chilean Armed Forces, through EMCO, worked at the national level with committee delegates in civil protection, emergency response, and the National Platform for Risk Management, and also cooperated on the development of the 2016 National Policy on Disaster Risk Management, the 2015-2018 National Strategic Plan for Disaster Risk Management, the National Plan for Risk Management and Disaster Management, and now on the Specific Plans for Risk Variables.
In terms of training and education, our defense institutions gear their efforts towards staff training to achieve versatility for their staff, who, given their involvement at various levels with civil protection committees and the Emergency Operations Committee (COE, in Spanish), need to have the right capabilities to join such planning and leadership bodies, and bring their updated skills to bear in the emergency situations and/or natural disasters they will face.
The Chilean military conducts leadership exercises for regional and provincial emergencies to join together with SNPC’s civil authorities and collaborate on training COE in tabletop exercises and/or with assistance from the Emergency Training Management System—a high-level computational tool designed by the Army Center for Tactical Operational Training on decision-making in emergency situations. As SNPC participants, the Chilean military is aware that they are important partners within this system. And, not wanting to steal the limelight, they have worked with others from the very beginning during emergencies and natural disasters.