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Army South completes Integrated Advance 2011 exercise

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GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – U.S. interagency advisors work together during Integrated Advance 2011 (IA 11) here Feb. 16. GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – U.S. interagency advisors work together during Integrated Advance 2011 (IA 11) here Feb. 16.

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (Feb. 18, 2011) — U.S. Army South played a key role in the success of Integrated Advance 2011 (IA 11) after deploying here in support of the exercise that came to a close Feb. 18.

            “I’m extremely proud of this command,” said Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, commanding general, U.S. Army South. “This hones our skills and gets our people ready [for real-world missions]. I have no doubts that they could do it again in a really outstanding manner should we be asked to.”

            IA 11 is a U.S. Southern Command sponsored, operational exercise aimed at exercising and validating key aspects of SOUTHCOM plans that will focus on humanitarian assistance, foreign disaster response (HA/FDR) and mass migration in the Caribbean while working together with various U.S. interagency partners.

            Army South’s contingency command post (CCP), consisting of both Soldiers and civilians, arrived here Feb. 5 to begin preparing for the training exercise in support of IA 11 where they facilitated the training of the SOUTHCOM staff and also exercised the deployment and operation of the CCP in support of theater operations.

            “We’ve validated our capability to rapidly deploy to a theater outside of the continental United States to setup a base to which we can introduce forces in our headquarters and conduct either a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operation or migrant operations,” said Trombitas.

            Col. Ehrich Rose, operations director, U.S. Army South, credits Army South’s experience during its deployment to Haiti last spring, in order to assume command of Joint Task Force-Haiti and Operation Unified Response (OUR), for the success Army South had during IA 11.

            “We’ve learned a lot of lessons,” said Rose. “This time last year when we had our deployment to Haiti, we captured those lessons learned and incorporated them into our standard operating procedures. Integrated Advance is another opportunity for us to practice, learn, and continue to improve in preparation for the next time we have to do this.”

            IA 11 was similar to U.S. Army South’s OUR mission in that it required the cooperation of several organizations, said Trombitas.

            “One of the principal things we learned is that we cannot conduct operations solely as a single component,” said Trombitas. “It is necessary to work in a joint environment with other services as well as to integrate nongovernmental agencies and the interagency.”

            Uniformed representatives from all the military branches as well as advisors from government agencies such as the Departments of State and Homeland Security, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement joined together to work under Army South’s CCP.

            “Working together during IA 11 proved that a uniform is a uniform no matter what branch of the military you represent,” said Coast Guard Lt. Chris Anderson, 7th Coast Guard District staff representative. “We all have the same goal and working together brought a lot to the exercise; it’s huge.”

            Trombitas said interagency cooperation is especially important based on lessons learned from OUR.

            “We have interagency here because of what we learned in Haiti,” said Trombitas. “This ensures we have a total government effort in anything we do in terms of migrant operations or humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”

            U.S. Department of State IA 11 advisor Stacy Gilbert said interagency cooperation is important in order to view things from a different perspective.

“It’s important we do this because there’s a wide range of experience among the uniforms and interagency,” said Gilbert. “We can help each other think about implications of all we do from a different point of view. A different part of our brain was exercised.”

            Working with other agencies is something Trombitas knows well based on Army South’s OUR experience.

            “Once we formed a relationship with these other agencies it afforded us the ability to work smoother, to understand their culture and their language and to better integrate them into our operations and us into theirs,” said Trombitas.

            Trombitas said overall he was impressed by the performance of his Army South staff, the various military components and other partner organizations as they worked together under the CCP.

            “It is a team effort,” said Trombitas. “We’ve had the opportunity to work with our sister services and the interagency and I’m quite confident that together we can do any mission we’re given.”