VALPARAISO, Chile -- A group of U.S. Marines from 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines and 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, boarded the Chilean ship LSDH Sargento Aldea for the first time August 15, 2014 during Partnership of the Americas 2014. The Chilean ship LSDH Sargento Aldea is one of five ships participating in the exercise to include the remote participation of the USS America.
Representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, and the United States are participating in POA 14 from August 11-22, 2014. This exercise is designed to enhance combined interoperability, increase the combined capability to execute Amphibious Operations, Peace Support Operations, and Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief missions, and further develop strong and lasting relationships the U.S. Marine Corps has established with partner-nation’s naval infantries.
The partner nations worked together to perform a series of rehearsal exercises to prepare for a final training evolution meant to simulate a natural disaster and provide HA/DR to areas in need.
Temporarily stationed at the Chilean military base, Fuerte Aguayo, in Concón, Chile, exercise headquarters of operations, a second group of Marines were flown via CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters to the Aldea to begin the exercise. The Marines and other partner-nation militaries then flew in the CH-46s to familiarize themselves with the experience of deploying from ship in a helicopter.
“The Marines are performing these exercises to prepare for the real thing,” said Gunnery Sgt. Hector Vega, company gunnery sergeant of 1st Division, 23rd Marines. “These are familiarization exercises used to get them accustomed to traveling in the helicopters.”
Along with helicopter operations, they also participated in rehearsal exercises that allowed them to get more familiar with amphibious operations needed to correctly execute a humanitarian assistance mission by deploying on Landing Craft Utility ships. LCU’s are a type of boat used by amphibious forces to transport equipment and troops to the shore.
The exercise seeks to improve joint engagement between the U.S. Marines and the partner-nation naval infantries by focusing on interoperability and sustaining relationships to help respond to environmental crises by improving on partner-nations capabilities.
“Canada does not have a robust amphibious capability so exercises such as these benefit us,” said Canadian Army Capt. Adam Haslett, 5th Canadian Division Headquarters. “It’s not something we have the opportunity to do too much of at home. This definitely adds a different dynamic.”
The majority of the partner nations participating in POA 14 speak Spanish as their primary language. Dealing with the language barrier is an integral part of the exercise as well as working and training together alongside partner-nation military services.
“Because we are dealing with Chilean Marines and marines from other countries the communication and understanding aspect of what we are trying to express to one another is similar,” said Vega. “Operationally we are speaking the same language. We are all Marines.”
The final exercise simulates a catastrophic natural disaster, such as a tsunami or major earthquake, in a populated coastal area of Chile.
More than 80 percent of the world’s population currently resides within 100 miles of coastline and the proportion is increasing. More than 230,000 lives were lost to natural disasters thought Latin America and the Caribbean from 2010 to 2013, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.
Which is why U.S. Marine Col. Michael T. Cuccio, deputy Amphibious Task Force commander for POA 14 pronounced the scenario for the Partnership of the Americas exercise as a humanitarian assistance disaster relief exercise rather than a warfighting one.
“Just looking at the number of participants shows that this will be a true exercise of partnership and interoperability,” said Cuccio.