U.S. and Chilean Special Forces Poised for Regional Challenges

U.S. and Chilean special forces participated in the Northern Star 17 combined joint exercise at the end of 2017. (Photo: Joint Chiefs of Staff of Chile)

“Northern Star provides an opportunity to learn and understand potential challenges in the security environment, cultivate a friendly partner network, and increase military interoperability,” SOCSOUTH’s Public Affairs Office told Diálogo. “[It’s] essential to cooperative responses and solutions when confronting common threats.”

Service members participated in a series of mock situations simulating detailed planning as well as application and execution of the mission. “The construct of the joint and combined scenario allows the combined special operations forces elements to integrate unique tactics, techniques, and procedures to neutralize a threat,” explained SOCSOUTH’s Public Affairs Office. “This is followed by a process that includes observation, review, and discussion to identify opportunities to improve tactical and technical proficiency and achieve a higher degree of interoperability.”

Northern Star optimizes both countries’ special forces training to respond to regional threats. According to SOCSOUTH’s Public Affairs Office, “Northern Star dramatically improves combined efforts to confront internal and external threats, and better postures our forces for crisis response at the tactical level.”

“Definitely, these exercises provide experience-based tools that help obtain better results in the effective use of the forces,” added Maj. Román. “Training troops should always be focused on simulating actions in a controlled environment, under the most real possible conditions, even more so considering the assimilation of experiences by forces that have been used in combat.”

Evolution of the exercise

The Northern Star joint exercise originated from the Southern Star exercise, held jointly in Chile since 2007 by EMCO and SOCSOUTH. In 2009, the exercise counted with greater international participation, including troops from Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay—the first time these countries joined the U.S.-Chile training. In 2015, the exercise took place for the first time in the United States under the name Northern Star; since then, it’s implemented every other year.

“The training venue provides an opportunity to integrate Northern Star into a unique joint training environment with dedicated training areas, assets, and equipment,” said SOCSOUTH’s Public Affairs Office. “[This] provides special operations forces the opportunity to validate interoperability with Chilean partners in various air, land, and sea training scenarios.”

In August 2018, Chile will host the Southern Star combined U.S.-Chile exercise. “Northern Star is a valuable tool for increasing mutual understanding and trust, and [to] help us achieve a higher level interoperability during combined operations,” concluded Col. Ecklund. “We are inspired by our Chilean partners’ dedication and unwavering commitment to strengthening relations and promoting the exchange of ideas. We look forward to deepening our collaboration through future training exchanges that are vital to maintaining the ready and relevant special operations forces that is required to protect our mutually shared interests.”