SALINAS, Chile -- Ideas, methods and experiences were exchanged and camaraderie shared in central Chile over the past few days, as Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 24 trained with Chile’s Infanteria de Armada, or Marine Corps, in support of Partnership of the Americas 2007.
From the moment Marines arrived here from Kansas City, home of the 24th Marine Regiment, they have been building personal relationships and finding common ground with their Chilean counterparts on bases near the port city of Valparaiso. Professional military education, combined receptions, command post tours, a soccer competition and an exchange of official gifts all helped to cement the new connections.
A full day of professional military education took place on May 24, as the partner nations exchanged lessons learned from vastly different experiences. The training began with a presentation by Lt. Col. William Fearn, Inspector-Instructor of 24th Marine Regiment, on the regiment’s actions in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“I think they were looking for experiences in humanitarian operations, and a number of the Chilean officers who will be doing civil affairs work in Haiti are eager to learn from Katrina, and anxious to gain from the exchange,” said Col. Michael R. Fogel of Platte City, Mo., Staff Judge Advocate for SPMAGTF 24.
The Chilean Marines then discussed their most recent peacekeeping operation in Haiti, to which they are dispatching another unit next month. The primary challenges faced in that environment included rules of engagement, level of force and relationships with local residents and officials.
“I was very impressed with the Haiti presentation, particularly how the Chileans integrated what they had with the lack of local resources,” said Capt. Georgia Parment of Ithaca, N.Y., officer in charge of Aviation Combat Element. “It was interesting to learn how the lessons gained from humanitarian relief in Haiti are close to many of the lessons learned from OIF.”
“The Haiti presentation was interesting,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron Farmer of Kansas City, Mo., Headquarters Company gunnery sergeant. “The officer in charge seemed to know what he was talking about, how there needs to be a specific mission. Give us a job and let us do it.”
Staff Sgt. Timothy D. Anthamatten, Armory Chief for SPMAGTF 24, was keenly interested in the Haiti presentation as well, after serving there with Joint Task Forces 160 and 120 as part of a Marine security detachment on a Coast Guard cutter in 1994.
“The Chileans seem very well attuned to what their mission is, and they clearly care about what they are doing there,” said Anthamatten, a native of Tulsa, Okla. “I was there when we helped repatriate them back to Haiti, so I’m very familiar with the problems they face. They’re just trying to help improve the country.”
The final presentation of the day was on the initial phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom by Col. Brent Dunahoe, commanding officer of 24th Marine Regiment. Dunahoe was commanding 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, at the time, and focused his talk on the key transition from direct combat to security and stabilization operations.
Both the officers and staff noncommissioned officers of SPMAGTF 24 were invited to receptions with their respective counterparts from Chile during the week, and all Marines on hand took part in a post-soccer barbeque with Detachment Miller on Fuerte Vergara in Salinas, a prominent point overlooking the Pacific Ocean, on May 25.
The events of the day closed with an exchange of gifts, allowing Marines of both partner nations to readily remember their first comrades from Partnership of the Americas 2007. Inscribed on the plaque given to Chilean Capt. Tulio Rojas, Commander of Detachment Miller, was the 24th Marine Regiment motto, which Dunahoe read aloud: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum. “If you want peace, prepare for war.”