PANAMA CITY, Panama – Zero-dark thirty a participant’s alarm goes off. Breakfast will be served momentarily, and participants will head to their respective areas for another day of events to determine whose country has the best commando team.
It’s day five of the grueling nine-day competition known as, Fuerzas Comando 2018. Now in its 14th year, comandos from 17 countries: the United States of America, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haití, Honduras, Jamaica, Panamá, Paraguay, Perú, Trinidad and Tobago are competing to claim the title of “Fuerzas Comando Champion.”
Day one kicked off the competition with an opening ceremony hosted by Panama’s Ministry of Public Security. Both the Minister of National Security of Panama Alexis Bethancourt Yau and U.S. Army Deputy Commander of Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH), Col. Brian Greata, spoke during the opening ceremony where he highlighted facing international threats as partners.
“Increasing our skills through competitions such as this, we improve our ability to face these challenges,” said Greata. “Therefore, I urge all of you to talk to each other, share ideas, cultivate comraderie, and establish trust and knowledge.”
Following the ceremony, the comandos changed and went to Calzada de Amador, Panama to start the physical fitness event, which consisted of muscular and cardiovascular endurance. Three of the four events included one-minute push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and finishing with a four-mile run.
U.S. service members and civilians were excited to be part of this exercise.
“Being in Panama for the first time has been exciting,” said Spc. Jose Vargas, a 26-year-old Soldier attached to SOCSOUTH. “It’s been a learning experience; the Panamanians have done a great job accommodating us here and making [us] feel like [we’re] home.”
These existing partnerships allow participants to exchange experiences and gain new knowledge about their counterparts, their nations, and their cultures Teniente Romuel Ruiz, a 30-year-old Panamanian police officer, said: “The competition in Panama this year is an excellent opportunity for us to open doors to the other countries to show them the level we are on.”
With a short break, day two kicked off Tuesday at midnight with a 20-kilometer ruck march and stress shoot. Comandos rucked through the dark and humid night carrying their assigned weapon and a 55-pound ruck. When the comandos completed the ruck, they were given a chance to redeem minutes off of the time back, by shooting ten rounds into paper targets.
The comandos from Haiti were the first team back, but placed 10th overall at the end of the day. Partner nations competing in Fuerzas Comando 2018 were provided the opportunity to learn from each other and refine their unit tactics. By increasing their special operations capabilities, countries become more capable of confronting common threats.
Day three and four of the competition consisted of sniper ranges and assault courses. The 17 Countries split their representatives into two teams, a sniper and assault team.
They simultaneously competed at several locations to determine who could shoot more accurately in the shortest amount of time.
“This is my third time in Fuerzas Comando,” said Eduardo Hernandez-Pineda, a 25-year-old Honduras comando. “These events are similar to the training we do back in Honduras, at the beginning of the competition we started off slow, but we are getting
better day by day.”
After two long days at the range, the comando team from Colombia has taken first place and are looking to win their 9th competition. Colombia has set the tone for winning the competition by claiming the trophy between 2005 to 2008 and 2012 to 2016. They are ahead of its closest opponent Ecuador by 165 points.
“In the middle of the competition any mistake that the head team makes will give us the lead,” said Ecuador Army 2nd Lt. Darwin Asimbaya, commander of the assault team.“We just have to stay focus and keep doing what we have been doing.”
Asimbaya added that the competition was significant to his team, they train on a daily basis back in Ecuador and look forward to sharing knowledge with the other 16 teams to become better, not only for the competition, but to help fight the war on terrorism.
There are two more critical events scheduled in the competition. The obstacle course slated for July 23, and the water event July 24. Each event could significantly impact the outcome of the competition.