The Uruguayan Army now has three Mobile Emergency Response Centers (MERC) that it can deploy in places where there is no communications infrastructure. The U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), through the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay, delivered the equipment during a ceremony that took place August 12th at Communications Brigade No. 1 in Montevideo. According to the Uruguayan Army's press office, the ceremony was attended by the United States Ambassador to Uruguay, Kelly Keiderling, as well as the head of the embassy's Office of Defense Cooperation and senior officers from the Uruguayan Army, General Guido Manini Ríos.
The mobile centers are easy to transport, quick to deploy, and can be activated in less than 30 minutes, linking multiple satellite, radio and internet communications systems. Their generators allow them to operate autonomously for 7 to 10 days.
"The MERC donation from the United States of America's Office of Defense Cooperation to the Uruguayan Army constitutes an important milestone for the Communications Arm," said Alférez Mariana Meza, from the Uruguayan Army's Department of Social Communication to Diálogo.
"It will allow us to form a command and control center whose goal will be to provide initial communications in disaster preparedness operations, emergencies, disasters and catastrophes anywhere throughout Uruguayan territory. It will also be of use in mission areas carried out under a United Nations mandate," added Alfz. Meza.
The mobile centers system makes communications equipment interoperability possible (including radio VHF and UHF, telephony, internet and satellite linking) — allowing them to get to remote places where there are no communication networks or where they have been disabled." According to Alfz. Meza, one of the mobile centers is scheduled to be sent to Uruguay's 4th Battalion, which has been deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Uruguay holds a seat as a non-permanent member of the United Nations (UN) Security Council for the 2016/2017 period. It has 1,500 Air Force, Navy and Army personnel participating in several peacekeeping missions, mainly in the Congo (MINUSCO) and Haiti (MINUSTAH).
During the equipment handover ceremony, Ambassador Keiderling reported that, in part, the donation of the MERC units will support Uruguay's efforts in "peacekeeping at a global level."
Uruguay is recognized internationally for its constant deployment of peacekeeping forces. Collaborating is a fundamental part of its foreign policy. Historically, the country has had the highest per-capita level of troop contributions to UN peacekeeping forces, and it has also been an important political and operational collaborator.
"We have participated in peacekeeping missions without interruption since 1952, and in total, over 45,000 men and women have been deployed in these missions, once or several times," highlighted Lieutenant Colonel Alejandro Martínez, deputy director of the Uruguayan National Peacekeeping Operations School in an interview with Diálogo.
"Really, we are very proud of the fact that in terms of peacekeeping missions, we have accumulated a great deal of experience that few other states have. Currently, in addition to military personnel, there are civilians that are fulfilling different functions of the mission," he said. .
Cooperation with the United States in defense and security matters is very important for Uruguay to be able to continue developing its capacities as a promoter of peace.
In the next few years, the primary task for the two nations will be to implement military programs in the areas of security assistance, exercises, exchanges and humanitarian aid with the goal of promoting strategic relations in areas of mutual interest.