Fuerzas Comando Promotes Special Ops Skills

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2011 — Elite com­man­dos from 19 coun­tries are par­tic­i­pat­ing this week in Fuerzas Coman­do 2011, a demand­ing coun­tert­er­ror­ism and spe­cial oper­a­tions skills com­pe­ti­tion spon­sored by U.S. South­ern Com­mand to pro­mote mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ships, increased inter­op­er­abil­i­ty and improved region­al secu­ri­ty.

Fuerzas Comando 2011
The Domini­can Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Sniper Team pre­pares for the stalk event of Fuerzas Coman­do 2011, at Shangal­lo Range in Ilopan­go, El Sal­vador, that’s near San Sal­vador, June 16, 2011. Fuerzas Coman­do, estab­lished in 2004, is a U.S. South­ern Com­mand-spon­sored, spe­cial oper­a­tions skills com­pe­ti­tion and senior leader sem­i­nar con­duct­ed annu­al­ly in Cen­tral and South­ern Amer­i­ca and the Caribbean.
U.S. Army pho­to by Spc. Casey Col­lier
Click to enlarge

The com­peti­tors, from through­out Cen­tral and South Amer­i­ca and the Caribbean, are tak­ing part in the eighth annu­al com­pe­ti­tion that kicked off June 15 and con­tin­ues through June 23 in Ilopan­go, El Sal­vador, said Air Force Maj. Brett Phillips, the lead Fuerzas Coman­do plan­ner for U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand South.

The El Sal­vado­ran mil­i­tary is host­ing this year’s exer­cise, with par­tic­i­pants from Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colom­bia, Cos­ta Rica, Domini­can Repub­lic, Ecuador, El Sal­vador, Guatemala, Hon­duras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Pana­ma, Peru, Trinidad and Toba­go, Uruguay and the Unit­ed States.

The com­pe­ti­tion con­sists of sniper, assault, phys­i­cal fit­ness, strength and endurance events that chal­lenge com­man­dos psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly as well as phys­i­cal­ly, Phillips said.

Among this year’s events is a timed 18.8‑kilometer forced march, with six-man teams from each coun­try car­ry­ing 30-pound ruck­sacks and rifles, and a series of sniper com­pe­ti­tions that include tar­get acqui­si­tion, range esti­ma­tion and night shoot­ing events.

The com­pet­i­tive events wrap up today, to be fol­lowed with a com­bined air­borne oper­a­tion tomor­row and exchange of wings before the clos­ing cer­e­mo­ny.

While spe­cial oper­a­tors test out their tac­ti­cal skills, a con­cur­rent senior-leader sem­i­nar is pro­vid­ing a strate­gic-lev­el focus to secu­ri­ty chal­lenges and pos­si­ble solu­tions.

Twen­ty-four nations have sent a senior spe­cial oper­a­tions offi­cer, typ­i­cal­ly the brigade-lev­el com­man­der of the country’s com­man­do team, and a min­is­te­r­i­al-lev­el pol­i­cy­mak­er asso­ci­at­ed with the country’s coun­tert­er­ror­ism poli­cies, pro­ce­dures and strate­gies, to par­tic­i­pate in the two-day dis­tin­guished vis­i­tor pro­gram, Phillips said.

“That’s when they talk about the region­al coun­tert­er­ror­ism projects and pro­grams that are in place, they talk about trans-nation­al threats, they talk about illic­it traf­fick­ing and how to com­bat that,” he said. “That is where you are address­ing those strate­gic-lev­el thought process­es and objec­tives.”

Phillips called this two-part approach key to fos­ter­ing rela­tion­ships through­out the ranks that pay off in clos­er region­al coop­er­a­tion, enhanced mutu­al trust and increased mil­i­tary inter­op­er­abil­i­ty as it advances the counter-ter­ror­ism train­ing and readi­ness of par­tic­i­pat­ing spe­cial oper­a­tions forces.

“It’s the strate­gic lev­el, with the com­man­ders and strate­gic thinkers from that coun­try, all the way down to the tac­ti­cal lev­el, where the teams that go and break down the doors and go save peo­ple, or, depend­ing upon their require­ment, they elim­i­nate a threat,” he said.

There’s anoth­er dimen­sion to Fuerzas Coman­do as well. As com­man­dos com­pete and their lead­ers con­vene, staff mem­bers from each par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­try are oper­at­ing as a com­bined staff, pro­vid­ing admin­is­tra­tive, logis­ti­cal, med­ical, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and oth­er sup­port.

This, Phillips explained, gives the staffs expe­ri­ence they would need to work togeth­er dur­ing a real-world con­tin­gency.

While Fuerzas Coman­do has sparked some healthy com­pe­ti­tion among par­tic­i­pants, “the cama­raderie and the fra­ter­ni­ty between these teams from all these dif­fer­ent coun­tries has been just excep­tion­al,” he said.

When the com­man­dos aren’t com­pet­ing, they share their oper­a­tional expe­ri­ences and ideas with oth­er teams and com­pare dif­fer­ent tac­tics, tech­niques and pro­ce­dures. This pro­motes coop­er­a­tion and learn­ing, along with a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how dif­fer­ent coun­tries’ mil­i­taries oper­ate, Phillips said.

It also lays a foun­da­tion for rela­tion­ships, he said, that could have a big pay­off in the future as com­man­dos advance to increas­ing­ly respon­si­ble posi­tions with­in their respec­tive mil­i­taries.

“Now, if there is a con­flict,” he added, “it is a lot more like­ly that the con­flict will be resolved between two chiefs of staff who know each oth­er, who have had a rela­tion­ship on a per­son­al side as well as pro­fes­sion­al, and they can resolve their prob­lems in a more prac­ti­cal man­ner than resort­ing to armed con­flict.”

Phillips said he’s seen past com­peti­tors who’d risen through the ranks return to Fuerzas Coman­do as senior mil­i­tary com­man­ders or gov­ern­ment offi­cials to par­tic­i­pate in the strate­gic-lev­el dis­tin­guished vis­i­tor forum.

“That’s our dream that we are see­ing real­ized,” Phillips said. “These younger team leads from years ago are now grow­ing in rank and posi­tion and soon will be able to pick up the phone and talk to Juan or Jose or Jorge or who­ev­er that they com­pet­ed against 10, 15 years ago as a team mem­ber,” and bring the ben­e­fit of shared oper­a­tional exper­tise to strate­gic-lev­el con­ver­sa­tions.

Phillips said he’s also encour­aged by the growth of the Fuerzas Coman­do, which began in 2004 with 13 coun­tries.

“It just grows and gets bet­ter every year,” he said.

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Thomas L. Brown II, com­man­der of Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand South, thanked par­tic­i­pants dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­monies at El Salvador’s Spe­cial Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Com­mand spe­cial oper­a­tions cen­ter for the ded­i­ca­tion they have brought to the com­pe­ti­tion and to region­al secu­ri­ty.

“You rep­re­sent the world’s finest war­riors, sac­ri­fic­ing dai­ly to defend and pro­tect the free­dom and secu­ri­ty of the cit­i­zens of the West­ern Hemi­sphere,” the admi­ral told the par­tic­i­pants.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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