Story was written by Lt.j.g. Martin Carey
CARTAGENA, Colombia (July 20, 2023) – East-Coast-Based Naval Special Warfare Operators (SEAL) showcased their capabilities and strengthened international partnerships during their participation in the multinational exercise UNITAS 64. As part of the exercise, SEALs trained alongside partner nation special operations forces in submarine operations, visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS), and close quarters combat (CQC), reaffirming the importance of collaboration in maritime defense strategies.
UNITAS, an annual joint exercise, brought together naval forces from 20 nations in Colombia to enhance interoperability and increase the collective capability to respond to evolving maritime security challenges. The event kicked-off with an opening ceremony where Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Carlos Del Toro delivered remarks.
“When I assumed office as the 78th Secretary of the Navy in August of 2021, I made enhancing strategic partnerships one of our Department’s top enduring priorities,” said Del Toro. “Trust, proficiency, and interoperability are core tenets of our partnerships as we work together to advance our common interests in the Western Hemisphere, maintaining the stability and security necessary for economic prosperity.”
Naval Special Warfare’s (NSW) involvement in UNITAS demonstrated the United States Navy’s commitment to maritime dominance and showcased the crucial role played by special operations forces in achieving this objective. Training alongside Colombian special operations forces, the SEALs practiced landing and launching combat rubber raiding craft boats onto the Los Angeles-Class attack submarine USS Pasadena’s (SSN 752) stern deck, refining their tactical abilities in the operational domain.
“UNITAS provided a unique opportunity to work with SOCSOUTH aligned special operations forces in the region, to advance our skills and train toward contingency operations,” said the SEAL commander on the ground overseeing the training. “Working alongside our partner nations adds another degree of interoperability, while demonstrating to our allies why we remain the partner of choice in the SOUTHCOM AOR, and sends a message of a united Western Hemisphere.”
During UNITAS, the SEALs engaged in rigorous training exercises alongside Brazilian, Chilean, Colombian, Dominican, Ecuadorian, French, Paraguayan, and Peruvian special operations counterparts, exchanging best practices and tactics to strengthen their collective abilities. During CQC, the SEALs honed their skills in operating in confined spaces, a critical aspect of maritime special operations. The VBSS training focused on refining techniques for boarding and searching vessels, ensuring they are ready to protect international law and safeguard all nations’ inherent right to freedom of the seas.
Partnerships lie at the heart of the United States’ national defense strategy, and NSW’s engagement in UNITAS 64 exemplifies this principle. By working alongside partner nations, they fostered strong relationships, deepened mutual understanding, and improved operational effectiveness. This exercise served as a testament to the United States’ commitment to maritime security and operating everywhere international law allows.
UNITAS, which is Latin for unity, united, or oneness, was conceived in 1959 when representatives at the first Inter-American Naval Conference in Panama agreed to conduct an annual maritime exercise with one another. Prior to UNITAS I in 1960, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Arleigh Burke reviewed preparations for the multinational exercise. He commended planners for their progress, especially in building compatible communication systems among navies, and predicted that UNITAS would build strong relationships among sailors of the Western Hemisphere.
The Colombian navy hosted this year’s UNITAS, which featured 26 warships/vessels, three submarines, 25 aircraft (fixed wing/helicopter), and approximately 7,000 people from 20 partner nations. Forces conducted operations off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia, and ashore in Covenas and Barranquilla, Colombia.
Naval Special Warfare Group 2 produces, trains, supports, and deploys the world’s premier maritime special operations commandos to conduct full-spectrum operations and integrated deterrence that support national objectives. For more information, visit https://www.nsw.navy.mil/