By Army Capt. Peter Nguyen
COMUSNAVSO

He's only been working in the United States for three months yet Peruvian Navy Lt. Eder Suclla has been a key figure in this year's UNITAS 2016, a multinational maritime exercise hosted this year by Panama. Already in its 57th year, the goal of UNITAS is to increase interoperability among participating navies and public security forces.

Lt. Suclla is an exchange naval officer from Lima, Peru and is assigned to U.S. Navy Destroyer Squadron 40 headquartered in Mayport, Fl. He and his wife moved to the Jacksonville area from Peru in July where, over the next two years, he'll be working directly for the unit as a surface warfare officer. Already he's proven himself invaluable as a liaison between the U.S. Navy and the 11 other nations participating in UNITAS.

 "This exercise celebrates the enduring relationships the U.S. has with our friends in central and south America," said Navy Capt. Angel Cruz, the deputy commander of Destroyer Squadron 40. "Lt. Suclla, a Peruvian naval officer working full-time at a U.S. destroyer squadron, is a perfect example of the mutual respect we have with our regional partner nations."

During this year's UNITAS exercise, Lt. Suclla has been busy planning, coordinating, and translating the training activities of 18 ships, seven helicopters, one fixed-wing aircraft and two unmanned aircraft systems detachments from 11 different participating navies.

"It's clear that Lt. Suclla comes to our unit well-trained and ready to fight," said Lt. Cdr. Nathan Harvey, the operations officer for Destroyer Squadron 40. "Planning the military activities of maritime vessels from just one country is a challenge. Planning and coordinating the unified effort of many vessels from many different countries is a completely different ballgame, and Lt. Suclla, as a member of our team, has taught us a lot on how to do that."

The overarching goal of this year's exercise is to develop and test the command and control of forces at-sea. Training in this exercise will address the spectrum of maritime operations. Specifically, there will be scenarios addressing electronic warfare, air operations, search and rescue, anti-surface warfare and maritime interdiction operations.

 "For a Peruvian officer, this is a one-of-a-kind experience to work for a U.S. naval unit," said Lt. Eder Suclla. "But, in many ways, it's also perfectly normal. For decades, our countries have been partners working together toward common goals, and the evidence is seen here at UNITAS."

UNITAS, which is Latin for "unity," was first conceived in 1959 and then executed in 1960 and every year since that time. This year marks the 57th iteration of the world's longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise, and it's a demonstration to the value of the relationships forged with our partners in the region.