U.S. Southern Command annually sponsors a wide range of multinational exercises to strengthen regional partnerships and collective capabilities that are integral to U.S. national security and the security and stability of the Western Hemisphere.
The SOUTHCOM exercises increase the capabilities of both the U.S. military and partner nations security forces. Exercise scenarios include: maritime security, peacekeeping, counterterrorism, illegal migration, illicit trafficking, disaster preparedness and relief, and humanitarian assistance.
As a result of participating in these exercises, U.S. forces and partner nation security personnel gain an increased ability to work together to better confront regional threats.
The following is a summary of SOUTHCOM’s exercises:
Security, Illegal Migration and Illicit Trafficking Exercises
One example of this type of exercise is Tradewinds, which addresses transnational security threats in the Caribbean. Recent TRADEWINDS exercises have been crafted to provide Caribbean nations training for the security requirements required for major events.
Another multinational security exercise sponsored by SOUTHCOM is the annual Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX, which focuses on the defense of the Panama Canal. This exercise involves numerous countries from the region, as well as other countries that are users of the canal. The exercise is designed to improve the interoperability of the military and civil forces of concerned nations to assist Panama to protect and guarantee safe passage through the canal and ensure its neutrality.
The annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored naval exercise UNITAS is the longest-running multinational maritime training exercise in the world. UNITAS, Latin for “unity,” represents a half-century legacy of naval cooperation in the Western Hemisphere. Since 1960, the annual exercise series has brought together militaries in the region to improve capacity to address common security challenges.
SOUTHCOM sponsors peacekeeping exercises that provide readiness and training opportunities for the U.S. military and the forces of participating nations to improve capabilities to participate in United Nations multinational peacekeeping operations. Military members share peacekeeping experiences to develop and practice peacekeeping doctrine and rules of engagement. Exercise scenarios allow for the exchange of ideas and the opportunity to review lessons learned in preparation for participation in an actual peacekeeping operation.
The annual exercise series Fuerzas Comando enhances the regional cooperation, training, and readiness of Special Operations forces in counter-terrorism tactics, techniques, and procedures. The exercise is centered on around a demanding counterterrorism and special operations skills competition designed to promote military-to-military relationships, increased interoperability and improved regional security.
Disaster Relief Exercises
SOUTHCOM sponsors disaster preparedness exercises, seminars and conferences to improve the collective ability of the U.S. and its partner nations to respond effectively and expeditiously to disasters. The Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias (FA HUM)
exercise series allows an opportunity for U.S. and partner nation security forces to train together to prepare for natural disasters. The exercise improves regional information sharing and capability to provide humanitarian relief during disasters. (More on SOUTHCOM's disaster relief mission
Humanitarian Assistance Exercises
Humanitarian assistance exercises such as the annual Beyond the Horizon (BTH) and New Horizons (NH) programs are a major component of the command’s regional engagement efforts and afford the opportunity to train service members while providing needed services to communities throughout the region.
BTH exercises provide persistent U.S. regional support through assessment, construction, and sustainment activities over a three-year period. Construction projects normally include schools, clinics, community centers, water wells, and other quality of life enhancement facilities for the host nation. At the same time, medical readiness exercises involving teams consisting of doctors, nurses and dentists provide general and specialized health services to host nation citizens requiring care. Each BTH exercise lasts several months. The NH exercises mirror the BTH exercise series, but are one year/single phase engagements. Both BTH and NH exercises generally take place in rural, underprivileged areas. SOUTHCOM attempts to combine these efforts with those of host-nation doctors, either military or civilian, to make it even more beneficial.
The command also sponsors a series of Medical Readiness Training Exercises (MEDRETEs). During a MEDRETE, a small team of military medical professionals deploy for about two weeks to underprivileged areas in the region to get valuable real-world training while also providing medical services to citizens in need of treatment. Typically, these exercises provide care to more than 200,000 people annually. A portion of the MEDRETEs are embedded in BTH and NH exercises each year.
Additional information on humanitarian exercises and programs is available on the Humanitarian Assistance mission page.