MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- Latin America's first multinational amphibious exercise launched June 24 with a record 11 nations participating: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, United States and Uruguay, along with observers from Colombia and Mexico.
This year's UNITAS is part of the U.S. Navy's Summer Pulse 2004, which involves the simultaneous deployment of seven aircraft carrier strike groups (CSGs), demonstrating the ability of the Navy to provide credible combat power across the globe, in five theaters with other U.S., allied, and coalition military forces. Summer Pulse is the Navy's first deployment under its new Fleet Response Plan (FRP).
Since 1959, UNITAS (Spanish for 'unity') has been instrumental in improving working relationships between U.S. and South American naval and marine forces. Promoting friendship and understanding between participants and peoples, this year's exercise focused on engaging nations to face their common threats and devise multilateral responses.
"The threats we have to combat are new threats," said Peruvian Vice Adm. Carlos Tubino, commanding general of Pacific Operations. Citing international terrorism and drug trafficking as top concerns, Tubino emphasized the need for a new style of warfare.
Peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance are the object lessons of the new UNITAS. As part of that lesson, on July 7, multinational forces will carry out a humanitarian-aid operation in Peru's Carquin district, Huacho province. There, military personnel will partner with the local population on various projects to improve the community.
"We work first with the people in the town that we are going to help," Tubino said. He mentioned four focus areas of health, education, sports and support for the community. "We spoke to all the countries participating in this UNITAS, and everybody had a lot of enthusiasm," said Tubino. "These efforts will ensure a better future for our children."
Rear Adm. Vinson Smith, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, praised Tubino and the Peruvian government for their hard work, flexibility and leadership to bring about this great multinational training opportunity.
"It is designed to improve the interoperability, friendship, trust, mutual understanding, and the art of amphibious and jungle warfare, peacekeeping and humanitarian operations," explained Smith.
Smith urged UNITAS participants to learn from one another. "I would encourage each and every one of you, when you leave here after two weeks, to know your counterpart as well as you know your shipmate or the Marine standing beside you."
More than 5,000 U.S. Sailors and Marines will participate in the amphibious phase of UNITAS, including Marine Force UNITAS, USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Strike Group, comprised of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, USS Thomas S. Gates (CG 51), USS Mustin (DDG 89) and USS Benfold (DDG 65).
This particular phase of UNITAS is an opportunity to help build a better tomorrow for nations of the Southern Hemisphere, hopefully guaranteeing peace, Tubino said.
"We need to see the future with a new paradigm and with new visions," said Tubino, "so all these countries may integrate collective and cooperative systems of security in South America."
In the next two weeks, Sailors and Marines will train and work together, gaining not only operational experience but also a wider perspective on their roles in securing peace in the hemisphere.
For more information about Summer Pulse '04 visit, the CFFC Web site at www.cffc.navy.mil/summerpulse04.htm.
For related news, visit the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cusns.