SANTIAGO, Chile -- U.S. Army South, its Chilean army partners and 14 other partner nations continue to strengthen relationships as the Peacekeeping Operations-Americas 2012 command post exercise reached its mid-point here May 9.

Army South, as the Army service component command of U.S. Southern Command, conducts the annual exercise in support of U.N. peacekeeping initiatives in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Despite inherent challenges associated with creating a team comprised of individuals from 16 different nations, the command post exercise, or CPX, team has worked effectively together according to exercise leaders.

"We have different cultures, different languages, different faiths and different personalities, but all the participants have come together and learned to work as an individual team," said Chilean Col. Jose Urrutia, lead professor at the Chilean Army Staff College and co-director of the CPX. "I've seen firsthand during the past two days that their working team skills and communication skills are excellent."

The five-day CPX, which ran May 7-11, and was designed to enhance communication and challenge the participants' abilities to implement and sustain U.N. peacekeeping standards and to ensure participants are prepared to respond to peacekeeping operational challenges. This is the last portion of the four-phased PKO-A 2012 exercise taking place this year in Chile and the Dominican Republic, from March 19 to May 11.

The first phase of Peacekeeping Operations-Americas 2012 was a battalion level training conducted March 19-23, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The second phase was a junior leaders' training April 2-6, in Fort Aguayo, Chile, and the third phase was a senior leader staff seminar in Santiago, Chile, from April 30 to May 2.

Urrutia said challenges are to be expected during the CPX, but it's through those challenges and lessons learned that improvements are made.

"We make changes and adjust in order to improve and make this training experience the best that it can be," said Urrutia. "We create events based on feedback from the participants."

CPX participant Guatemalan Maj. William Barrios, deputy director of the Central American Peace Operations Training Center in Coban, Guatemala, said the exchange of information and knowledge, especially on a personal level, is important.

"Working on a personal level really helps," said Barrios who has deployed to peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Haiti. "While the U.N. doctrine might be common to us all, we each have our own doctrines that may differ. Even the small things can create a challenge so we try to find a solution while we're here. I have noticed a big improvement in our ability to work together since the start of the CPX."

In addition to Chile and the United States, more than 300 representatives from Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay are participating in Peacekeeping Operations-Americas 2012.

The multinational exercise supports the U.S. Department of State's Global Peace Operations Initiative, which encourages peacekeeping efforts in Central and South America and the Caribbean. This initiative develops and enhances national training capabilities and equips potential peacekeeping units for deployment.

Urrutia's U.S. counterpart, Col. Michael Stewart, exercise co-director, U.S. Army South, said the strengthening of partnerships is palpable, not only during the exercise but during participants' off-time as well.

"You see them interacting socially at night and in break areas throughout the day," said Stewart. "There are some countries who historically may not necessarily have the best relations with each other; however, here interacting together on a personal level they are putting politics aside for the common good."

Ultimately, exercises such as Peacekeeping Operations-Americas help build a strategic framework of relationships with partner nations in the region, while working to further improve interoperability, security and stability.