More than 300 U.S. and Colombian soldiers stood tall in formation on the parade field of Tolemaida Military Base, Colombia, during the opening ceremony of Exercise Southern Vanguard 23. The exercise is U.S. Army South's premier annual training exercise at the operational and tactical levels and is intended to increase interoperability between the United States and Western Hemisphere forces.
“Your role here in this exercise is the single most important phase of building partnerships between nations,” said Brig. Gen. Rodney Boyd, Assistant Adjutant General for the Illinois Army National Guard, during his opening remarks at the ceremony. “Your work is what makes our militaries interoperable.”
He went on to explain some of what the Soldiers assigned to the 130th Infantry Regiment, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Illinois Army National Guard and the 1st Battalion, 54th Security Force Assistance Brigade, Georgia Army National Guard can expect to experience working alongside their Colombian Army partners.
“Over the next week, the junior NCOs and company-grade officers will take the baton and develop the relationship between our two countries at the tactical level,” he said. “You will build deep personal connections as you conduct combined, company-level tactical operations.”
Brig. Gen. Fredy Coy, Colombian Army Chief of Staff of Operations, emphasized the relationship between the armies of the United States and Colombia and the history of their interoperability dating back more than 50 years ago.
“This relationship started a long time ago when we responded in Korea and conducted operations together,” he said during his remarks. “In Korea, this was the first time we were interoperable with our partner nations.”
While combined training exercises such as ExSV23 build upon the lethality, effectiveness and interoperability of all armies involved, the lasting friendships are equally important.
Boyd recalled his experience as a battalion commander training alongside the Ghanaian Army explaining that among his fondest memories are the friendships he made working alongside his Ghanaian partners.
“To this day, I am in contact with a member of the Ghanian Army that I met during that exercise,” Boyd said. “Hopefully, you all will build similar memories over the course of the next week.”
Coy concluded his remarks by thanking the planners from both countries for developing and planning the exercise and by professing his hope that ExSV23 will be a great exercise for everyone involved.
As the ceremony ended, Soldiers from both armies, instead of going their separate ways, lingered to discuss the training that lies ahead of them throughout the duration of the exercise.