TOLEMAIDA MILITARY BASE, Colombia –
Soldiers from the Illinois and Georgia National guard stood side by side with their Colombian Army counterparts one last time on the parade field of Tolemaida Military Base in Colombia during the closing ceremony of Exercise Southern Vanguard 23 (ExSV23) on Nov. 16, 2022.
“I thank you for your professionalism, full dedication, and focused engagement throughout the week,” said Maj. Gen. William Thigpen. U.S. Army South commanding general, as he spoke to the formation of more than 400 U.S. and Colombian Soldiers. “Our U.S. Soldiers participating from Georgia and Illinois National Guard were able to coordinate logistics, experience the rigors of Colombian Army’s training, and hone their squad and platoon level skills in Colombia’s challenging jungle terrain.”
Thigpen also took time to acknowledge Colombian Army’s Counter-narcotics and Transnational Threats Command who trained alongside the U.S. Soldiers stating, “Your entire organization’s professionalism, tactical prowess, and enthusiastic approach to planning and executing this exercise was commendable.” He continued by saying, “I know your Army relies on your organization to conduct real-world missions every day, in a high-threat environment and the U.S. Army truly appreciates the opportunity to train with some of the finest Soldiers in this western hemisphere.”
Throughout the two-week exercise, U.S. and Colombian Army Soldiers used their previous training and experiences to collaborate and execute various situational training lanes including movement to contact, patrolling in dense jungle terrain, reacting to direct and indirect fire and medical treatment and evacuation techniques.
During the final day of training, Soldiers from both Armies put all they had learned to the test as the conducted a final combined assault operation which included an air insertion and navigating at night through the jungle during a torrential downpour.
Commander of the Colombian National Army, Maj. Gen. Luis Mauricio Ospina Gutiérrez spoke about the unique experience many of the Soldiers on the field had throughout the past two weeks and regarded the importance of the partnership that was further strengthened during ExSV23.
“I thank God allowing us to share this experience that enriches both of our nations capabilities,” he said. “The defense integration alliance with the United States of America is acknowledged as one of the most successful in the region and this training has helped to increase the level of training and interoperability of our Armies.”
The ever-increasing ability for the U.S. and Colombian Armies to work together through challenges was established during the Korean war and has garnered an increased level of interest in recent years.
“We have been developing this exercise annually alternating the headquarters between both countries,” he said. “It began in 2019 with the presence of a platoon from the South Carolina National Guard who trained alongside a platoon from the counter narcotics and trafficking brigade at this same facility and continued in 2021 when the counter narcotics and trafficking brigade conducted an exercise with the South Carolina National Guard at Fort Polk, Louisiana.”
The shared experience and insights that ExSV23 has provided for both Armies proves that this exercise was a success meeting all the training objectives laid out throughout the numerous planning conferences that led up to the past two weeks of execution.
Both Thigpen and Ospina concluded their remarks highlighting their eagerness to continue working together in the future at all levels and further building upon the already strong partnership the two Armies have established.