Two Chilean marines are in the United States, teaching specialized courses to their U.S. counterparts. The courses, part of a long-term knowledge exchange between both nations’ marine corps, started in early November at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California.
The exchange lasts two years, during which time Chilean noncommissioned officers will follow U.S. marines’ routine and participate in courses as both students and instructors. The opportunity seeks to reinforce participants’ capabilities and ensure that they maintain a high level of training. The exchange will also help strengthen bonds of trust and mutual cooperation between Chile and the United States.
The Chilean marines, Staff Sergeant Jorge Castro and Sergeant Pablo Andrade, assumed their duties as instructors of the U.S. Marine Corps Expeditionary Operations Training Group’s Helicopter Rope Suspension Techniques Master course. Sgt. Andrade also teaches the Assault Climber course.
“We are very proud as Chilean marines to have the opportunity to exchange experiences with an expeditionary force like the U.S. Marine Corps,” Staff Sgt. Castro told Diálogo. “Personally, I feel very motivated to represent my country, the Chilean Navy, and the Marine Corps.”
A unique experience
Both sergeants were selected for the exchange for their outstanding resumes, performance of duties, and command of English. The candidates must be in excellent physical condition and have reached the rank of sergeant. They must also undergo a series of exams and tests to be selected.
Although the exchange is highly regarded due to the unique experience provided to participants, the Chilean Navy’s General Directorate of Personnel only appoints one representative per year. According to the Chilean Navy, a total of 28 marines, including current participants, have traveled to the United States for the biennial exchange since 1992.
The Chilean marines carry out various activities including specialized training exercises, such as rope insertion and extraction techniques, urban combat, and combat marksmanship, as well as rescue techniques in hard-to-reach areas, first-aid techniques, and cardiovascular resuscitation. The sergeants also conduct day and night intense exercises at sea, in urban areas, and mountains, simulating troop rescues and putting to the test everything they learn.
“From the personal standpoint we had an incredible experience, full of challenges both for our families and as individuals. Living in a country where everything is different and seeing that my children and wife have quickly adapted has been wonderful,” Sgt. Andrade told Diálogo. “Professionally, it has been demanding and exhausting, with long shifts training in activities entailing high risk, great precision, and skill.”
In addition to taking part in activities as students, the Chilean sergeants also took on the role of instructors in a class teaching fast rope descent techniques that started from towers to guide students to apply what they learned from helicopters at more than 12 meters. Sgt. Andrade also teaches a course to U.S. students that tests physical fitness, as well as knots techniques and methods to create a hanging bridge with ropes, so as to perform cliff assaults, transport supplies, and cross safely.
“Many times in different courses or exercises, [the U.S. Marine Corps] see us as benchmarks for how we do things and the experience our Chilean Navy acquired over the years,” Sgt. Andrade said. “We ask students to do professional and constructive criticism for each course. I was chosen as the best instructor several times. This shows the leadership, professionalism, and high-level training that we have as Chilean marines.”
When the courses finish in December, Sgt. Andrade will spend the Christmas and New Year holidays with his U.S. counterparts before returning to Chile in early January 2019, where he works as a member of the Expeditionary Amphibious Brigade in Concón. Staff Sgt. Castro will remain in the United States for one more year, learning and teaching. He will then head back to his country in 2020 to resume his duties as instructor of the Comandante Jaime Charles Marine Corps School in Viña del Mar.
“It’s been amazing,” Sgt. Andrade concluded. “There’s been honest, mutual camaraderie. As the days went by we realized that we were more similar than different: our commitment and devotion to our duties, the incomparable love for our flags and fellow citizens, in addition to the unbreakable loyalty engraved in our warrior hearts.”