By Staff Sgt. Michael Carden, 196th Mobile Public Affairs OfficeJuly 16, 2015
POPTUN, Guatemala (USASOC News Service, July 16, 2015) -- Teams, from across the Americas, gathered for the opening ceremonies of Fuerzas Comando '15, a friendly competition pitting special operations forces against one another in tests of skill and endurance, July 15.
Sponsored by U.S. Southern Command, and executed by U.S. Special Operations Command South, or SOCSOUTH, the annual event aims at improving cooperation among partner nations as well as the readiness and training of each country's forces.
"This event is not only about competition," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Angel Martinez, SOCSOUTH's Joint Training and Exercise Division chief. "It also solidifies the network of elite special forces in countering common threats in the region."
Started in 2004, the exercise is held in a different country each year and is hosted by Guatemala this iteration.
Nineteen countries are participating in this year's competition, which promotes teamwork and improves regional stability throughout Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The exercise is part of a larger program conducted across the region since 1984, designed to promote cooperation among partner nations in facing transnational threats, such as organized crime, narcotics trafficking and human trafficking.
"We hope that these types of competitions will serve to unite our countries," said Guatemalan army Capt. Roberto Sierra, Ministry of Defense media production chief. "Not only to work together on common threats, but at the same time to develop better relationships between our countries."
The competition consists of several challenges: a physical fitness test, ruck march, marksmanship, obstacle course and aquatic event. They were created to test teams on their fitness, close quarters combat skills, marksmanship, agility, as well as concealment and mobility.
"They are all working together to achieve one common cause," Sierra said. "Each team has its own different style and that is where the interchange of different experiences really comes to heart."
Regardless of who hoists the trophy at the end of the week-long competition, leaders at the event seem confident that the real prize is improving partnerships between participating countries.
"History has shown that we have shared pains together. We're able to combat those common threats in trust manifested throughout the years with exercises like Fuerzas Comando," Martinez said. "None of us can do it alone, and I dare everyone to make new friends, to strengthen existing ties and to grow a trust between us all."