Friday, February 15, 2013

U.S. military exercises in December and January

U.S. military personnel carry out a very regular schedule of exercises and training deployments throughout Latin America. Here, based on official releases and press reports, is a glimpse of these activities in December and January, in alphabetical order by country.

Belize

The Southern Command’s Honduras-based “Joint Task Force-Bravo” component and the Belize Ministry of Health carried out a joint Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) on January 15, 2013, at the Copper Bank Primary School in Copper Bank, Belize.

Brazil

On a January visit to Rio de Janeiro, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert met with the commander of the Brazilian Navy and toured multiple Brazilian naval facilities, including the Aramar Nuclear Facility. Greenert stated that the “U.S. Navy will assist Brazil with lessons learned from the development of the U.S. nuclear submarine program to help foster Brazil’s subsurface capabilities.” The Brazilian navy and Marine Corps carried out a live amphibious assault exercise and performed a simulated pilot rescue mission in honor of Greenert’s visit.

Chile

In December the USNS PATHFINDER, part of the U.S. Southern Command Oceanographic Southern Partnership Station, assisted the Chilean Navy’s Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service to re-survey the seafloor in and around the Bay of Concepción and Golfo de Arauco. In addition to the survey, reads a U.S. embassy release, “Chilean Navy and U.S. Navy hydrographers and oceanographers will also use this time to share their expertise and learn from one another.”

El Salvador

Gen. Frederick Rudesheim, commander of Southcom’s U.S. Army South component, met in December with “key” leaders of the Salvadoran army and traveled to remote areas where “Beyond the Horizon 2013,” a U.S. Army South exercise deploying military engineers and medical professionals, will take place.

Guatemala

In January “The Message Program,” a U.S.-based non-profit, worked with the Military Group at the American Embassy in Guatemala and the Guatemalan Army’s 6th Brigade to supply and equip two clinics and one school in Alta Verapaz department. The clinics and schools are part of the Southern Command’s “Beyond the Horizon” series of construction and humanitarian aid exercises.

Servicemen from Joint Task Force-Bravo completed a four-day Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) in Chiquimula, Guatemala from December 11-15, 2012.

Honduras

Members of U.S. Naval Special Warfare Unit 4, including 10 members of SEAL Team 18, recently completed six months in Honduras. There, they train a newly created naval Special Forces unit, Fuerzas Especiales Naval (FEN). In total, 45 Honduran personnel completed training over the course of two eight-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL style training courses.

Mexico

In December, U.S. Northern Command completed the first phase of training for more than 400 Mexican firefighters in seven cities as part of its Humanitarian Assistance Program. Phase One focused on fire chiefs, Phase Two will focus on lieutenants and captains, and Phase Three will focus on frontline firefighters. Training was conducted by Chemonics, a U.S. company contracted by Northcom.

As U.S. Northern Command pursues closer engagement with Mexico, Army Major General Francis G. Mahon, Northcom’s director for strategy, plans and policy, said in January that he hopes to begin bilateral exercises with Mexico. U.S. and Mexican military officials will begin to plan their first bilateral air defense exercise this month. which is expected to take place later this year.

Last year, Mexican military leaders participated in several “tabletop” simulation exercises, and sent observers to Northcom’s “Ardent Sentry” exercise last spring.

“It’s all about getting comfortable with each other and hopefully, advancing in the relationship,” Gen. Mahon said. “It would be wonderful, someday, to take a Mexican company [about 200 soldiers] to the National Training Center to train with an American battalion or brigade.”

This would be a big break with tradition in Mexico, explains the Defense Department news release that cites Gen. Mahon.

Mexico’s constitution explicitly prohibits foreign forces from operating on Mexican soil. But as SEDENA and SEMAR, Mexico’s army and navy, respectively, shed their internal focus, they are becoming increasingly open to combined training and subject matter expert exchanges, Mahon said.

Research for, and some drafting of, this post was carried out by WOLA Intern Elizabeth Glusman.