Performing Multiple Missions in the Americas

Article excerpt

U.S. Army South

On January 12, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake centered near Port-au-Prince brought unparalleled devastation to the people of Haiti. In 18 seconds, more than 230,000 people perished and more than a million were made homeless. National landmarks such as the Presidential Palace and National Assembly were severely damaged, while approximately 250,000 homes and 30,000 commercial buildings were destroyed. Not since the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 had the world witnessed such suffering, nor been so quickly galvanized into action. The international response that followed, led by U.S. SoLithern Command and U.S. Army South (ARSOUTH), swiftly prevented what could have been a far greater humanitarian catastrophe and reassured the Haitian people that their friends and neighbors stood ready to help.

Earthquakes, hurricanes and floods are an annual reality for millions of Americans south of our border, sometimes requiring robust international responses and sometimes ably handled by the affected nations themselves. Just a month after the Haiti earthquake, on February 27, an 8.8-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chile triggered a tsunami that destroyed several coastal towns and caused extensive damage throughout the rest of the country. The death toll was more than 500, and the international response much smaller.

Our responses to the two earthquakes help illustrate the importance of strong army-to-army relationships in the region. Annual exercises like Allied Humanitarian Forces (FAHUM) allow regional armies to routinely meet to refine their individual and collective disaster-relief-and-response capabilities, drawing on lessons learned from similar operations worldwide. A recent FA-HUM exercise involved participants from 25 nations, handling a pandemic influenza simulation in Phase One, while field-training exercises in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Costa Rica and Honduras occurred during Phase Two. FA-HUM directly improves the ability of the nations in the region to cope with natural disasters, and the lessons learned from these exercises have been used extensively in the region. Allied Forces PANAMAX, which simulates a defense of the Panama Canal, practices the ability of regional armies to conduct multinational combat operations. Conducted simultaneously from air, sea and land at locations throughout the United States, Central America and the Caribbean, the land component headquarters for PANAMAX 2009 were established at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Camp Bullis, Texas, with 79 participants from 17 nations. Peace Keeping Operation (PKO)-Americas is a peacekeeping exercise involving militaries from Central and South America conducting a combined command post exercise and field training exercise focused on stability operations in a fictional country.

Annual humanitarian and civic assistance exercises such as Beyond the Horizon (BTH) focus on improving the longterm capacities of our less-developed partners in the region. In 2009, ARSOUTH conducted BTH exercises in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Deploying primarily reserve component soldiers, these exercises use engineering and medical projects to strengthen ties with partner armies while training our soldiers, technically and culturally. Our soldiers treated 10,000 patients in medical readiness training exercises and completed 23 new construction and renovation projects ranging from new schools and clinics to improving local military facilities and disasterrelief operations centers. BTH 2010 has executed 24 medical readiness training exercises and 21 construction and renovation projects in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua and Panama. Many of these newly created or renovated structures are better capable of withstanding the destructive power of earthquakes and hurricanes.

Staff talks with nations including Brazil, Chile, Colombia and El Salvador - and international forums such as the Conference of American Armies - help the U. …