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Participants from 17 nations finalize plans for Peacekeeping Operations-Americas 2012 exercise

March 21, 2012

By Ms Arwen Consaul (ARSOUTH)

SANTIAGO, Chile -- U.S. Army South joined its Chilean army partners here March 6 to finalize plans for the upcoming annual Peacekeeping Operations -- Americas (PKO-A) 2012 exercise.

This year PKO-A will include 17 partner nations, with representatives from the United Nations, the Conference of American Armies and Conference of Central American Armed Forces, in a four-phased exercise taking place this year in Chile and the Dominican Republic March 19 - May 11.

The annual exercise supports U.N. peacekeeping initiatives in Central and South America and the Caribbean. It also provides participating countries with the opportunity to practice peacekeeping tactics, techniques and procedures.

This exercise is designed to enhance communication and challenge the participants' abilities to implement and sustain U.N. peacekeeping standards and to ensure personnel are prepared for peacekeeping operations.

The first phase of PKO-A 2012 will be a battalion level training conducted March 19-23 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic at the Escuela de Mantenimiento de Paz de las Fuerzas Armadas Dominicanas. The second phase will be the junior leaders' training portion April 2-6 at the Military Operation Urban Training Facility in Fort Aguayo, Chile. The third phase will be a senior leader staff seminar April 30 -- May 2 in Santiago, Chile. The final phase of PKO-A 2012 will be a command post exercise to be conducted April 30 - May 11 in Santiago, Chile.

"The type of experience gained from this exercise is paramount," said Chilean Col. Jose Urrutia, lead professor at the Chilean Army Staff College and co-director of the command post exercise. "Not only do we practice speaking other languages, as would happen in actual peacekeeping missions, we have the partnerships and exposure to realistic scenarios which we can practice to make us better prepared for future U.N. requirements."

In addition to Chile, the Dominican Republic and the United States, more than 300 representatives from Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay will participate in PKO-A 2012. U.S. Army Pacific, the Army component command for U.S. Pacific Command, and the countries of Spain and Mexico will send exercise observers.

PKO-A is designed to enhance communication and challenge the participants' abilities to implement and sustain U.N. peacekeeping standards and to ensure participants are prepared to respond to peacekeeping operational challenges.

The multinational exercise supports the U.S. Department of State's Global Peace Operations Initiative, which encourages peacekeeping efforts in Central and South America and the Caribbean. This initiative develops and enhances national training capabilities and equips potential peacekeeping units for deployment.

PKO-A provides Army South, as the Army component command to U.S. Southern Command, and participating service members with the opportunity to work with partner nations in a peacekeeping role. The exercise also provides an opportunity for service members to improve interoperability and learn how to work with other government and nongovernmental organizations and civilian and military experts from the participating countries.

"This exercise offers U.S. Army South the opportunity to work with our multi-national partners in an exercise that not only trains participants in the important role of maintaining stability and security, but also reiterates the importance of having a highly trained and deployable force able to integrate with other military and civilian peacekeepers around the world," said Brig. Gen. Manuel Ortiz, deputy commanding general for Army South.

Chile has a rich history of partnership not only with the United States but with the U.N. as well.

"Chile has been participating in U.N. operations for more than 60 years," said Urrutia. "Chile has been a strong supporter of U.N. peacekeeping operations and is currently contributing to peacekeeping task forces by providing troops, U.N. officers and support services in India, Pakistan, the Middle East, Cyprus, Haiti, Bosnia and Herzegovina. With this type of experience, Chile can make the scenario more realistic and provide better training."

PKO-A also provides a valuable training experience for members of the United States military.

"This is a valuable experience for the U.S. military," said Ortiz. "The U.S. is trained to conduct combat and humanitarian operations, but does not have the same level of experience in U.N. peacekeeping missions as some of our counterparts in this exercise. This exercise offers us the chance to learn from those who have supported such U.N. missions in Haiti and Africa, thereby making us better prepared to respond to future peacekeeping operational challenges."

Ultimately, exercises such as PKO-A help build a strategic framework of relationships with partner nations in the region, while working to further improve interoperability, security and stability.

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