EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — One of the Western Hemisphere’s most enduring security partnerships strengthened in November as counter-narcotic police from Colombia trained with 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldiers here.
Members of the Compañía Jungla Antinarcóticos trained here to improve their capacity to counter narcotic and human trafficking in their home country while reinforcing bonds between the two forces. The training at Eglin’s highly specialized facilities was a first for both members of the decades-long partnership.
“The continued partnership between the Colombian Junglas and US special forces is a testament to each country’s commitment to increased security and stability in the Western hemisphere,” said Col. Robert Kirila, the group’s deputy commander. “The strength of that strategic level commitment finds its foundation in the tactical level partnership training conducted here in the pine forests of Eglin and the jungles of Colombia.”
The partnership was established in 1989 when the first 120 Junglas were trained by the British Special Air Service with 7th SFG support, whose Area of Responsibility includes Latin and South America. The 7th SFG was first given the primary responsibility of training the Junglas early in the 1990s. Junglas now comprise most of the training cadre, as the 7th SFG, along with other U.S. agencies, sustain the partnership providing training and advisory support.
Junglas seek out and destroy narcotic-production facilities hidden beneath the Colombian jungle’s dense canopy. Each member undergoes 18 weeks of small arms, demolitions, first aid and other skills training conducted by Colombian, and sometimes American, instructors to fight an enemy who can easily meld into dense vegetation used to conceal facilities and storehouses.
During the month-long training, the Junglas paired with a 12-man Operational Detachment Alpha team, whose members’ specialties include demolitions, tactics, leadership and planning. Speaking to the Junglas in their native language, the 7th SFG soldiers developed a training schedule to improve their capacity to counter the narcotics trade.
“Members of the ODA realized our shoot house here on the compound would provide the Junglas a great chance to increase their close quarters battle skills in complex buildings, so we made sure our training schedule was set up to enhance clearing rooms and breaching doors as a team,” said the ODA’s non-commissioned officer-in-charge, a Special Forces master sergeant.
The Junglas’ first three weeks of training included: basic marksmanship for carbine rifles and 9mm pistols using static targets on Eglin’s ranges; movement and team-level tactics with ranges’ static targets; familiarization with weapon systems such as mortar systems and sniper rifles; and close quarters battle skills training in a shoot house. The shoot house’s movable doors and walls offered the Colombians nearly endless challenges in learning CQB techniques from the 7th SFG Soldiers.
The final week of training opened with the Junglas conducting a culmination exercise requiring them to apply skills taught by the 7th SFG Soldiers. While ensuring the safety of all participants, the Green Berets mostly observed the Colombians’ actions and planning, only offering insight or correction when necessary.
The Junglas’ final training week used information gleaned from intelligence gathered at three previous targets. They crossed Santa Rosa Sound on inflatable boats and conducted a nighttime raid on a suspected safe house. They assaulted the multi-story building intent on rescuing simulated hostages.
Observed by their 7th SFG mentors, the Colombians quickly swept through multiple rooms and hallways, shouting amidst the chaos to communicate their actions and prevent fratricide. With the building secure and the simulated hostages not apparently present, the Junglas conducted a comprehensive search of the complex, eventually finding the simulated victims stashed inside a hidden room.
At a ceremony which marked the conclusion of the training, American and Colombian leaders expressed how grateful they were for the opportunity to train together.
“This was a unique training opportunity for both them and members of my team,” said the ODA’s team leader, a Special Forces captain. “What we accomplished here is truly what Special Forces is all about – maintaining partnerships with forces within our AOR and improving their ability to secure their country.”
Article by Maj. Thomas Cieslak,
7th Special Forces Group Public Affairs
Photo: A member of the Colombian Compañía Jungla Antinarcóticos, left, briefs a Special Forces soldier assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), his plan to assault an objective on Santa Rosa Island on November 23. The Junglas, as they are known, were participating in a culmination exercise hosted by the Green Berets and designed to test their proficiency in close quarters combat as well as mission planning. The Junglas spent most of November on Eglin AFB training with the Special Forces soldiers as part of the Western Hemisphere’s longest enduring security partnership formed to counter narcotic and human trafficking. (U.S. Army photo/Maj. Thomas Cieslak)