WASHINGTON, DC – A special operations exercise under way in Guyana is enhancing capabilities of both U.S. and Guyanese special operators and ensuring they have a foundation to respond together in the event of a common threat.
Exercise Fused Response kicked off March 1 and continues through March 9, bringing together about 300 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines with about 200 members of the Guyana Defense Forces, Navy Lt. Cdr. Ron Ralls, the lead planner, told American Forces Press Service.
The bilateral exercise, the largest of its kind in the Western hemisphere and with Guyana’s military this year, includes both field training and command post components. A full schedule of combined and joint training focuses heavily on communications, staff planning, reconnaissance and other military skills.
The goal, Ralls explained, is to develop better understanding about how the two countries’ forces operate so they can share best practices and, if required, work together more seamlessly.
“We have been training and doing exercises with the Guyana Defense Forces for many years, but this is the first time we have had an exercise of this scope with them,” he said. “It increases our ability to work with each other [and] know each other’s capabilities, which enhances our ability to work together in any circumstance.”
That ability is critical, he said, in standing up to what’s recognized as the paramount threat in the region: transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking of drugs, humans and other contraband.
“This is a threat to everyone,” Ralls said, noting that the criminals involved and operate without regard to national borders or legal constraints.
In contrast, the regional nations striving to stand up to these threats are far less resourced, he noted. “So it’s a pretty daunting challenge when the criminal organization has more influence than the country that is trying to fight it,” he said.
Recognizing that transnational challenges require international cooperation, planners view exercises like Fused Response as an opportunity to build capability within partner nations’ defense forces and, in some cases, their law enforcement agencies.
“Enhancing their capability goes a long way toward the overall goal of trying to reduce or stop these organizations from being able to operate freely,” Ralls said. “It ensures that for any threat they may go up against, they will be more efficient and better prepared.”
The exercise is part of U.S. Southern Command’s ongoing effort to build and sustain enduring partnerships in the region. These engagements, some bilateral and some multilateral, include personnel exchanges, exercises and senior-level forums that address broad, strategic issues.
“Fused Response 2012 … reflects a broad and continuing United States commitment to military and civilian engagement to promote peace and prosperity in the Americas,” said U.S. Ambassador D. Brent Hardt at a press conference in Guyana just before the exercise kicked off. “We maintain cooperative relations with our partners in the region to enhance regional security and cooperation.
“Through operations such as Fused Response, as well as through an array of training and exchange programs,” Hardt continued, “the United States is actively engaged to build the capacity of — and learn from — our partners and allies so that individually and collectively we can better protect our citizenry and enhance regional security.”
Ralls said it’s gratifying during Fused Response to see participants become increasingly comfortable with each other and forge friendships that continue long after the exercise concludes.
“Ultimately, these engagements build rapport between U.S. forces and the partner nations’ forces,” he said. “As this takes place, you see them get to know each other, begin building relationships and come together as a more effective team.”