PLAYAS, Ecuador -- In the stifling heat of the Ecuadorian coast an army patrol of humvees and armored vehicles winds its way through a narrow jungle road. In an instant, the column erupts into a chaotic firefight with smoke and hand grenades exploding all around.

As part of an exercise run by the U.S. Military Group Ecuador, the military force, under the command of Ecuadorian Army Captain Roberto Campoverde, the patrol maneuvers swiftly, flanking the ambushers and bringing the engagement to a successful conclusion.

This exercise was just one of many challenging training scenarios that were played out during a recent training event organized by the U.S. Military Group and the Ecuadorian Army 2nd Division.

During the week-long training exercise, a company of Ecuadorian officers and soldiers received instruction on the fundamentals of mounted reconnaissance, security and patrolling operations.

The participants learned and practiced critical crew drills, mission planning, recovery operations and actions on contact. The training also included an intense three day field exercise in which the students tested their skills against a determined and thinking opposition force provided by the Ecuadorian Special Forces.

"We focused on how to maximize the advantages vehicles give a unit: mobility, firepower and protection," said U.S. Army Maj. Michael L. Burgoyne, a cavalry officer and Army foreign area officer. "Although Ecuador is largely mountain and jungle terrain, combat vehicles are critical for lines of communication and in populated areas. This course will help them capitalize on their assets in their efforts against irregular armed groups and smugglers."

The training event enhances the partnership between the Ecuadorian armed forces and the U.S. Military Group's ongoing programs designed to increase the Ecuadorian military's capabilities.

Ecuador continues to confront the presence of illegal armed groups, weapons smugglers and narco-traffickers along their northern border with Colombia. Since 2001, the U.S. Military Group has provided nearly 100 humvees and 50 military five-ton trucks to the Ecuadorian armed forces. The vehicle donations have been augmented by an extensive maintenance program.

"Ecuador and the United States are partner nations in the fight against terrorism and narco-trafficking," said Army Lt.Col. Paul Lemke, Army section chief at the U.S. Military Group. "This training is essential in Ecuador's efforts to maintain security and sovereignty against dynamic transnational threats."