CAMP BLANDING, Fla. — What do you get when you take hundreds of professionals from 9 different countries and put them in the same location? In the military, it’s called “multi-lateral partnership.” Officially, it’s called Partnership of the Americas 2012.
“The Partnership of the Americas involves all of the Marine Corps’ of the western hemisphere,” said 23rd Marine Regiment’s operations officer, Lt. Col. Daniel Temple. Temple is also the lead planner for this year’s exercise. “It’s the only opportunity where these countries come together at the operational and tactical level. It’s a very unique opportunity.”
The multi-national exercise with participants from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the United States and Uruguay allows the Marines, soldiers and U.S. sailors to learn and practice common tactics and techniques. There’s more to it than working together for two weeks though. Like any gathering of professional peers, networking is also a priority.
“The first thing we’re looking at is relationship building – not necessarily the relationship between the U.S. and the partner nations, but the relationships between the individual partner nations,” Temple explained.
For these allies, who may one day work together to avert natural or man-made disasters, understanding how to operate efficiently is vital – especially when there is no common language. Most of the participants – U.S. Marines from 2nd Bn., 23rd Marine Regiment – speak English, while many of the partner nation personnel speak Spanish exclusively.
“My guys, they don’t really speak English, but here we get a lot of help because you have a lot of Hispanic guys in your units,” said Ecuadorian Marine 2nd Lt. Luis Carvajal, a member of Ecuador’s Marine Corps special forces.
One truism that became apparent early is that Marines are Marines when it comes to working in the field, and practices often transcend language.
“We’ve realized that we have a lot in common,” Carvajal said. “There are some little differences, but the things you do differently, you explain to us why. We’re going to mix them and try to figure out what’s better for our units.”
Partnership of the Americas has the most diverse population of all the Corps’ annual exercises – representatives from nine countries, rather than only one, two or three as is often the case – and most of the participating countries’ militaries’ don’t have regular opportunities to work together as they are in the field and classroom here.
“Secondly, we’re looking at improving the real-world capacity for these countries to come together and work together interoperably,” Temple said. “For example, if we have a humanitarian assistance mission that takes place, we want them to come together as an organization and handle the situation.
“Haiti would be the perfect example,” he continued. “An earthquake or a hurricane takes place and rather than the U.S. heading up the effort to go into the country, what we’re trying to do is develop the regional capacity for these nations to come together and go handle the situation.”
Brazil currently leads the U.N. mission in Haiti and contributes the largest contingent to the peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance operations there. In July, Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim announced his country would assist in forming and training a new, Haitian public defense force to take the place of the multi-national force that has been in the country off and on since 1994 – a reflection of missions recently undertaken by the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Even though the U.S. is the host country for Partnership of the Americas, make no mistake, this is clearly a multi-national exercise and everyone is here to learn. The easiest way to observe that fact is in the different uniforms and languages leading different aspects of the training – a point that was planned months in advance.
All these countries are subject matter experts in certain areas,” Temple said. “They have a lot of experience with humanitarian assistance. Some countries are experts in riverine operations. “During the planning conferences, we solicited those areas where they felt they were experts,” he said. “We hope to learn as much from them as they’ll learn from us.”
Partnership of the Americas has been described as a “unique opportunity,” a “partnership,” and “an honor to be a part of” by participating Marines, but another description also applies – “legacy.”
“These partner nation officers and staff NCOs that are here, they come from militaries that are very small and in the next 10 or 20 years, these officers will become the leaders of their militaries,” Temple said. “The young captains that are here from these countries will one day potentially be the commandants of their Marine Corps.
“They’ll look back on their experiences at Partnership of the Americas, and the friendships they developed here are going to benefit their Marine Corps and their countries in the future,” he said. “It’s a legacy that we have developed within the western hemisphere for all the Marine Corps’ and hopefully it will continue.”