SANTIAGO DE TUNA, Peru – During 11 days in May, this brotherhood was uniquely strengthened among 20 multinational special forces teams during Fuerzas Comando 2016, a competition among elite military and police forces to familiarize those who may be united in resolving transnational conflicts.
Many of the transnational threats the U.S. faces today, such as kidnappings, international gangs, terrorism, drug trafficking, and illicit activities cannot be defeated by traditional military means alone. Defeating these threats requires common goals and cooperation with regional partners. Fuerzas Comando is one example of such cooperation.
“Fuerzas Comando is another link in the chain of persistent engagements that build trust and friendships among our forces,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, U.S. Southern Command commander, during the competition’s closing ceremony. “This trust between units is the element that connects all our special operations forces together in an unbreakable network.”
Special operations forces from across the Americas and the Caribbean competed this year in Ancon, Peru in a competition annually sponsored by USSOUTHCOM, and executed by Special Operations Command South.
The Peruvian joint command, or Comando Conjunto de las Fuerzas Armadas, served as this year’s host and chose a naval marine base along the Pacific coast of Peru as the location for the competition
This year, each event was made more dynamic and rigorous. The competition consisted of a physical fitness test, a ruck march up the side of a mountain, a swim with a weighted pack, a team obstacle course, an airborne operation, sniper sharpshooting, navigating a watercraft, and marksmanship.
U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matt Parrish, a team leader with the 7th Special Forces Group, designed each event and its scoring system. Throughout the planning process, he strived to make each situation as realistic to combat as possible so that the competitors can integrate tactics they learned at the competition into their training back home, he said.
For example, some targets were painted red to signify an immediate threat to the commando, such as an enemy with a weapon, and, therefore, had to be hit first.
On shooting ranges, Parrish used the element of surprise by shielding targets from the competitors until they ran the course. This mimicked a more realistic combat scenario.
Snipers were forced to fire from precarious positions on top of, and around, boulders. This more demanding course was partially attributed to the mountain ranges of Peru, as well as the creativity and experience of members of 7th SFG.
All events were timed and every target counted in a contest of speed and accuracy. Each tested skill is necessary to elite forces when they are called upon to complete precise missions where minimal mistakes can have large repercussions.
USSOUTHCOM sponsors Fuerzas Comando as a way to foster security in the Western hemisphere through collaboration with international partners. The command is prepared to conduct joint military operations with those partners against transnational security challenges such as terrorist threats, money laundering, and illicit drug trafficking.
“Each one of the units participating in Fuerzas Comando is specifically selected because they are the head counter-terrorism unit in their country,” said Parrish.
During Fuerzas Comando, USSOUTHCOM and its international partners further ensured security through a Distinguished Visitor Program where leaders assessed policies and made counter-terrorism recommendations in a four-day session in Lima, Peru.
On his visit to competition sites, Peruvian Minister of Defense Jakke Valakivi Alvarez expressed his optimism for the pursuit of interoperability and activity in the future. “This is a great opportunity to know each other,” Alvarez said.
U.S. Army Maj. Ian S. Davis, lead SOCSOUTH planner for Fuerzas Comando agreed, saying, “It’s a collaborative process.” The Peruvian marines and U.S. logistical personnel have been able to work within each others’ constraints through negotiation and compromise to reach solutions to logistical challenges, he said.
This collaborative process also paved the way for smooth execution of the competition’s events, which was necessary for those representing their nations.
Peruvian army Lt. David Hugo Vilca Velarde, Team Peru leader, expressed how much pride he took in competing in each event.
Velarde revealed the great responsibility of representing his country in exhausting events like the ruck march up a mountain near Santiago de Tuna, Peru. When their legs couldn’t take it, their minds pushed through, he said.
The ruck march began at 5,000 feet above sea level and ended at 10,000 feet. The struggle up the mountain covered almost 20 kilometers and the competitors were weighted with packs and weapons. Just before the event, the teams wished each other good luck and congratulated each other after its completion, said Velarde.
This brotherhood and the spirit of friendly competition have far-reaching effects among the forces competing. Nations so close in proximity may find themselves united against common enemies in the future. The problems of one country can easily become the problems of a bordering country. With connections made and friendships forged in the field of friendly competition, the global force is strengthened and unified.