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Around The Fleet

Colombia Takes Lead in UNITAS LIX, Hosts Multinational Exercise

Colombian naval forces recently helmed UNITAS LIX, hosting 11 countries in Cartagena during the annual exercise, held Aug. 31 through Sept. 11.

UNITAS, Latin for 'unity,' is the world's longest-running multinational maritime exercise, conceived in 1960 as a demonstration of both the United States' commitment to the Americas, and the strong relationships forged with our partner nations and their militaries.

Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru and the United Kingdom also participated this year. Colombia has been involved in UNITAS since 1960, and has hosted three times: 2005, 2013 and 2018.

Colombian navy Rear Adm. Gabriel Alfonso Perez Garces commanded the exercise. U.S. maritime forces operated under Rear Adm. Sean Buck, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet.

"This is an incredible opportunity for our navies to come together and operate as a team to enhance our abilities to work together in the future," said Buck. "Developing skills and building lasting friendships with our counterparts is critical when we need to respond to any future maritime threats. Together, these vital training opportunities can enhance our skills as maritime warriors and global partners."

The overarching goal of UNITAS LIX was to develop and test command and control of forces at sea. The exercise addressed the spectrum of maritime operations, and scenarios included electronic warfare, anti-air warfare and air defense, anti-surface warfare, maritime interdiction and amphibious operations.

Participating U.S. forces and capabilities included USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC 908), Destroyer Squadron 40, Navy Mobile Diving and Salvaging Unit 1, Naval Air Systems Command BQM-7 Drone Detachment, the Aerosonde unmanned aircraft system, Patrol Squadron 45 and the U.S. 4th Fleet.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) supports U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing a principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and fully exploit the sea as maneuver space. This enhances regional security and promotes peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

Editor's note: For more information about UNITAS, visit DVIDS and Facebook.