TOLEMAIDA, Colombia June 14, 2012 -- After eight long days of strenuous and arduous tasks, Exercise Fuerzas Comando came to an end during the final closing ceremony June 14. For the fifth time in the history of the exercise, Colombia earned the coveted title of Champion. Ecuador took second place and Uruguay took third place.Established in 2004, Fuerzas Comando is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special operations forces skills competition and senior leader seminar, which is conducted annually in the Western Hemisphere. This year, Fuerzas Comando was sponsored by the Colombian Army and held at the Colombian National Training Center at Fort Tolemaida. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise.The Colombian Minister of Defense, Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno, kicked off Fuerzas Comando 2012 with an inspirational speech to the troops and special operations forces with words that specifically recognized the multinational cooperation between all the participants."I am glad to welcome many countries who are friends of Colombia today; countries that have contributed not only to our training, but have also helped us counter the threats facing our nation," said Pinzon.This year's competition consisted of military and police forces from 21 countries: the Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States and Uruguay."Invitations are sent to partner nations in the U.S. Southern Command's and U.S. Northern Command's area of responsibility," said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Dale W. Bopp, lead planner for SOCSOUTH's Joint Training and Exercise section "The 21 countries participating this year, eagerly accepted the invitation to participate in the events."Nations participating in the competition provided a judge, a five-person 'assault' team and a two--person sniper team to compete in this spirit of camaraderie. The eight-day contest provided the toughest mental and physical test of special operations skills, tactics, techniques and procedures, which included aquatic, strength, and conditioning contests principally employed in special operations missions."The team leaders of today who compete amongst each other may very well be the same individuals who return years later to take part in the Distinguished Visitor Program and Senior Leader Seminar, not as competitors, but as partners," said Bopp. "With that, we can utilize the friendships forged years ago to meet the challenges of the day."Exercise Fuerzas Comando 2012 spanned eight days of intense competition. The events included a physical fitness event, rifle and pistol qualifications, distance and FBI "T" shoot, sniper stalk, road march, critical tasks, snaps and movers, a field shoot, obstacle course, combined assault, aquatic event, stress tests, and night shoots. There was also an multinational airborne operation on the last day, which is not an annual competition, but incorporated to help build upon the friendships that were forged throughout the exercise."The focus of these competitions is to test the abilities of special forces soldiers. The participants will be tested on things like marksmanship and physical fitness, which are an important part of the training for any special forces soldier," said Colombian Lt. Col. Juan Carlos Vargas Carvajal, operations officer for the Colombian Joint Special Forces Command and officer-in-charge for the Fuerzas Comando 2012 events."After eight days of competition, the participants are physically exhausted," said Maj. Juan Carlos Blanco of the Colombian Army. "This event really puts to the test the competitors' physical and mental condition."Another main aspect of Fuerzas Comando was the Senior Leaders Seminar, which was held in Bogota. The seminar is designed for military leaders to exchange ideas and to improve military-to-military relations and discuss regional issues, such as countering transnational organized crime."Fuerzas Comando is an important opportunity for us to demonstrate the role the U.S. plays in linking special operations forces in the region and improving our capabilities and sharing ideas on how to face common threats like dangerous non-state actors," said Navy Rear Adm. Thomas L. Brown, Commander, Special Operations Command South.The 9th annual Fuerzas Comando event was aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region."At the end of the day, especially in special operations, it's all about relationships and trust and confidence and understanding each other's perspective and situation," said Brown. "It's all about those relationships and knowing enough about each other to know where the areas of cooperation are that we need to reinforce."The airborne operation signaled the end of the competition. One paratrooper from Special Operations Command South, jumped for the first time since graduating from airborne school."It was an awesome experience, especially jumping from the back of the bird," said Sgt. Samuel Diaz. "The view was great!"Exercise Fuerzas Comando 2013 is scheduled to take place in Chile next summer.