HARTFORD, Conn. – Members of the Armed Forces Mission of Uruguay visited Connecticut June 14-17, touring facilities and capabilities throughout the state, as well as the Cyber Yankee exercise at Joint Base Cape Cod.
Major Gen. Hugo Rebollo, senior defense official, Col. Ruben Aquines and Capt. Juan Acosta, air force and naval attachés respectively, typically work at the Uruguayan Embassy in Washington D.C., but visited the state as part of a bilateral trip to build understanding and cooperation between the Armed Forces of Uruguay and the Connecticut National Guard as part of the State Partnership Program (SPP). 2021 marks a 21-year partnership between the Oriental Republic of Uruguay and the State of Connecticut.
The State Partnership Program is unique to the National Guard and pairs state National Guards with international partners. In an era marked by great power competition, the necessity of building and enhancing relationships across the globe is more vital than ever. “SPP supports the security cooperation objectives of the United States and the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCC) by developing enduring relationships with partner countries and carrying out activities to build partner capacity, improve interoperability, and enhance U.S. access and influence while increasing the readiness of U.S. and partner forces to meet emerging challenges, said Maj. Steven Ortiz, Connecticut’s director of the state partnership program. “The SPP is of great strategic importance to our national defense. What we do here in Connecticut matters; Connecticut National Guardsmen make vital contributions to the Joint Force, executing our national defense strategy by advancing multinational understanding and support with countries such as Uruguay.”
The benefit of this partnership goes both ways. “Events such as these are in best interests of the Department of Defense because it provides a platform to strengthen the partnership between our two nations. Uruguay is a strategic partner of great importance in the world. Montevideo is one of largest and most important ports in the world and Uruguay is a powerhouse in agricultural production and is home to many vital industries. By training together with Uruguay, the SPP helps position the U.S. to react effectively to anticipated or unanticipated global scenarios and work together seamlessly due to previous collaborative experiences,” said Ortiz. In an upcoming engagement, Connecticut Army National Guard engineers plan to visit Uruguay and work with their engineers to drill wells to assist with forest firefighting. Future C-130 aircrew collaboration was also discussed.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health ideas and force health protection best practices were exchanged. Not even the pandemic could stop the partnership. “Most recently, we completed a Cyberdefense Subject Matter Exchange virtually with over 70 participants, located in both the US and Uruguay,” said Ortiz. “The intent of that event was to discuss cyberdefense operations, provide briefs from all participants to include CYBERCOM, Fleet Cyber Command, SOUTHCOM/J6 on their capabilities, discuss cyberattacks (both real-world and notional), and we conducted a table top exercise with our partners.”
The Armed Forces of Uruguay, or Fuerzas Armadas del Uruguay, are currently supporting UN peacekeeping operations. They are operational in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with nearly 900 military personnel (Security Council Resolution 1925) and over 200 military personnel in Golan (Security Council Resolutions 350 and 2555.)