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    A Band of Brothers: Countries compete for 11 days but partner for life.



    Story by Spc. Elizabeth Williams 

    Special Operations Command South

    Twenty countries sent a team of seven special operators to Paraguay from July 17-27, 2017, to compete for a first-place trophy and earn the title of Fuerzas Comando champion. The 11-day competition aims to increase regional security, tactical skills and strengthen bonds between competing countries. Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) executes and coordinates the competition each year. The competition was held in the cities of Mariano Roque Alonso, Nu Guazu, Paraguari, and Vista Alegre.

    Through friendly competition, Fuerzas Comando creates partnerships that countries take home with them.

    “Fuerzas Comando is more than a competition,” Panamanian police Sgt. Josue Juarez, a competitor this year, said. “It’s more like making a friendship with other nations.”

    From the opening ceremony to the closing ceremony, actions of competitors and support personnel constantly served as a reminder that bonding countries together was the main goal of the competition.

    During the opening ceremony U.S. Army Gen. Raymond Thomas, the U.S. Special Operations Command commander, set the tone for what he wanted the competition to mean.

    “Fuerzas Comando is yet another link in a global network,” Thomas said. “This network brings together our hemisphere’s Special Operation Forces and key leadership into an interlocking tribe of families, partners and true friends.”

    Teams worked together to conquer a rigorous fitness test, a 12-mile ruck march and a Special Forces-style obstacle course. They were pushed to their limits physically many times throughout the 11 days. Many of the events required competitors to push themselves to their physical limits, then, still shaking from fatigue, were challenged to display expert marksmanship skills.

    Team Honduras won the competition for the first time in its 13 iterations, upsetting Team Colombia who won the previous year. Team Colombia placed first in the sniper events, and the U.S. team placed first in the assault events.

    Each year during the competition, teams have two weeks to observe and learn from each other. The countries constantly evolve their tactics and techniques to better prepare themselves for contingencies.

    During the 2012 competition, Juarez learned from Team Colombia, who has won the last 8 of 13 Fuerzas Comando competitions, that he and his teammates need to go on longer ruck marches more frequently. The marches make the special operators more fit and better able to carry out missions. This year, the Panamanian team placed among the top four teams in the Ruck March event.

    “You see tactics and movements from other countries that you can adapt to your own team,” Juarez said.

    Another example is how the Panamanian team learned from Peruvian special forces how to spot targets in rocky terrains after having met at a Fuerzas Comando competition. From what Juarez’s team learned from both Colombian and Peruvian SOF, they are better prepared not only for next year’s Fuerzas Comando competition, which is planned to be held in Panama, but also their mission back home.

    The Dominican and U.S. Special Operations Forces also serves as an example of training cooperation among partner nations. For years, the Americans taught the Dominicans advanced techniques and tactics.

    In 2005, Dominican army 1st Lt. Natanael Rodriguez, a competitor this year, went on a rescue mission in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Rodriguez and his team were tasked with rescuing a Dominican businessman and bringing him back to safety, he said. And it was because of the training he received from working with USSOF that the team successfully rescued the businessman unharmed. More recently, Rodriguez learned through observation of the U.S. sniper team that they also need to improve some of the equipment their forces use.

    When a partnership is created, countries learn from each other. Members from Team Colombia have trained with U.S. forces and learned from them the same way the Americans have from Colombian forces.

    Colombian air force noncommissioned officer Diego Silva, a competitor this year, learned close combat tactics and pistol and rifle techniques from U.S. forces.

    The soldiers from the 7th Special Forces Group of Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., at the same time learned how to navigate through thick jungle vegetation along with other jungle maneuvers and various tips and tricks from the Colombians.

    The participating countries have a long history of working together. And their partnership continues to strengthen with each Fuerzas Comando competition.

    When U.S. Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, the commander of U.S. Southern Command, gave his closing remarks at the final ceremony, he urged the competitors to continue to take the lessons and partnerships gained from the competition back home with them.

    Ultimately, it didn’t matter what team held the trophy over their heads at the closing ceremony.

    Lt. Col. Angel Martinez, the joint training and exercise division chief for SOCSOUTH, simply summed up the goal of the competition.
    “It’s about partnerships,” he said.

    Even more, it’s how these countries use their partnerships to create a band of brothers who protect the Western Hemisphere.



    Date Taken: 07.27.2017
    Date Posted: 07.27.2017 17:10
    Story ID: 242867
    Location: VISTA ALEGRE, PY

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