Gathering in Cartagena, Colombian naval forces are taking the helm for UNITAS LIX, hosting 11 countries’ naval maritime forces during the annual exercise from Aug. 31 – Sept. 11.

UNITAS, Latin for ‘unity,’ is the world’s longest-running multinational maritime exercise. Conceived in 1960, UNITAS is a demonstration of U.S. commitment to the region and the strong relationships forged between our partner nations and their militaries.

Joining the United States this year are 10 countries including: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and the United Kingdom.

Colombia has been a participant in UNITAS since 1960 and has hosted three times in UNITAS history: 2005, 2013, and 2018.

Colombian navy Rear Adm. Gabriel Alfonso Perez Garces is the overall commander for the exercise. U.S. maritime forces will be under the operational control of Commander, Task Force (CTF) 138, Rear Adm. Sean Buck, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our navies to come together and operate as a team to enhance our abilities to work together in the future,” said Buck. “Developing skills and building lasting friendships with our counterparts is critical when we need to respond to any future maritime threats. Together, these vital training opportunities can enhance our skills as maritime warriors and global partners.”

Participating U.S. forces include USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC 908), Destroyer Squadron 40; Navy Mobile Diving and Salvaging Unit 1; Naval Air Systems Command BQM-7E Drone Detachment, Aerosonde UAS, Patrol Squadron 45, and U.S. 4th Fleet.

The overarching goal of UNITAS LIX is to develop and test 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, anti-air warfare and air defense, anti-surface warfare, maritime interdiction, and amphibious operations.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.