In early November, a delegation of 25 U.S. Army officers traveled to Colombia to take part in the Comprehensive Action and Development International Certificate. The course took place November 8th-20th at the School of International Missions and Comprehensive Action (ESMAI, in Spanish), in Bogotá.
The course seeks to pass along the Comprehensive Action and Development doctrine, whose strategy is based on the concept of synchronization, coordination, and integration among government institutions, private organizations, and civil society to achieve stability in the country. The U.S. officers’ goal was to get basic knowledge on the Comprehensive Action systems to prepare for an imminent deployment in Colombia.
“It’s like an introduction to what Comprehensive Action is, so that they can learn about this subsystem and the country’s current situation,” Colombian Army Captain Rubén Eloy Ramírez Sánchez, instructor of ESMAI’s Comprehensive Action and Development course, told Diálogo. “[It’s] for them to be able to plan and help us execute our missions in the future.”
The delegation that took the course is part of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s E Company, 98th Civil Affairs Battalion, based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Officers deployed in Colombia will conduct a six-month mission to support Comprehensive Action and Development in different regions of the country.
“In my opinion, the best part of the course was the relationships created,” U.S. Army Major David Carattini, commander of the 98th Civil Affairs Battalion, told Diálogo. “When our group deploys in December , we will basically already know the leaders of the different areas with whom we’ll be working.”
The course covered general issues about Colombia, such as culture, different regions, population, causes for instability, as well as the structure of the government and the Armed Forces. The focus was also on the Damasco Doctrine, which combines the main principles of the Military Forces and guides their actions to support national objectives. Taught in Spanish, the course also enabled participants to improve language skills before the deployment.
“I’m improving my Spanish and learning a bit about the culture,” U.S. Army Captain Matthew Vishnevsky, Civil Affairs officer who attended the course, told Diálogo. “It’s important to know the language, so that we can communicate not only with the population, but also with the Colombian Army.”
Other important aspects of the course were the Peace Agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the post-conflict, and its repercussions in the country. Also, U.S. officers learned about institutional services—the set of plans, programs, and projects available for victims of violence—and the program Faith in Colombia, which seeks to improve living conditions of vulnerable populations, among other essential programs.
“We receive training that is crucial to understand how Comprehensive Action affects, helps, and improves all areas of Colombia through its operations,” Maj. Carattini said. “This information helps us set strategies that will enable us to complement the Comprehensive Action and Development efforts everywhere in Colombia.”
This is the second course with international attendance. In the first one, carried out in September 2018, 26 soldiers of the Honduran Armed Forces graduated. Although the most recent delegation is the first U.S. group to take this course, the combined work between the United States and Colombia, as well as the exchange of knowledge and experiences, is long-lasting.
“This is not new, the deployment of U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs units,” said Capt. Rodríguez. “They’ve been in Colombia for about 10 years. The [ESMAI] school, as the alma mater of Comprehensive Action, saw the need to assemble this entire group before its deployment, so as to show them our doctrine and also update them in terms of our operational environment.”
Upon their return, the U.S. officers will become multiplying agents, passing down their experiences to colleagues. For Colombia, the course and mission strengthen the future of a modern army with high interoperational capabilities.
“Colombia isn’t a country where we stand still,” Capt. Ramírez concluded. “We have a vision for 2030, as an army of multi-mission heroes that can interoperate and perform combined operations with other armies anywhere in the world.”