CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA --
UNITAS LXIV is officially underway. The opening ceremony of the world’s longest-running multinational maritime exercise formally launched this year’s iteration on July 12, 2023.
Twenty nations are coming together to conduct the 64th iteration of UNITAS, Latin for unity. In concert with U. S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, approximately 650 United States Marines from Marine Forces South, Marine Forces Reserve, and II Marine Expeditionary Force will provide direct support to nautical, aerial and shore-based training events throughout the land and waters around Cartagena, Coveñas and Barranquilla, Colombia. The integrated exercise highlights the unity of effort to strengthen international partnerships, cooperation, and interoperability.
“I am convinced that there is no better example of how we are strengthening our bonds with our partners and allies in the Western Hemisphere.” rank and name, Honorable Carlos Del Toro, U.S. Secretary of the Navy
Colombia is hosting UNITAS LXIV as the Colombian Navy simultaneously celebrates its bicentennial anniversary. Colombia welcomes the United States amphibious forces along with 18 additional partner nations (Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, Spain, South Korea, United Kingdom, and Uruguay) who combine a total of 26 warships/vessels, three submarines, 25 aircraft (fixed wing/helicopter) and approximately 7,000 personnel who will train side-by-side to integrate and strengthen maritime resources, tactics, techniques, and procedures.
“UNITAS is the premier maritime exercise in the region,” said Brigadier General Raymond Adams, Marine Forces South (Forward) Commander. “Training alongside so many of our partners enhances the relationships among the Navies and Marine Corps of the region and strengthens our hemispheric ties. UNITAS also provides an opportunity for the participating nations to sharpen the skills necessary to operate as part of a larger maritime force focused on maritime domain awareness, conduct ship to shore amphibious operations, and exercise sea control and sea denial. We are very grateful to our Colombian partners for hosting UNITAS this year.”
Photo by Maj. Jeremy Wheeler
Senior leaders from 20 partner nations pose for a photograph with the U.S. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, at the Colombian Naval Museum, Cartagena, Colombia on the official opening day of exercise UNITAS LXIV, July 12, 2023. UNITAS, which is Latin for ‘unity,’ is the world's longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise that brings together forces from 20 countries to include Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, South Korea, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and the United States. By working together with allies and partners we amass the greatest possible strength for the long-term advancement of our interests, maintaining favorable balances of power that deter aggression and support the stability that generates economic growth. The exercise focuses on enhancing interoperability among multiple nations and joint forces during littoral and amphibious operations in order to build on existing regional partnerships and create new enduring relationships that promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the U.S. Southern Command’s area of responsibility.
The UNITAS LXIV opening ceremony at the Colombian Naval Museum here welcomed senior military leaders and dignitaries from various partner nations. Rear Adm. James Aiken represented the U.S. Navy with Maj. Gen. John Kelliher III as his counterpart for the U.S. Marine Corps. The U.S. Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Carlos Del Toro, also served as the senior United States representative and guest speaker.
“UNITAS provides us all with the opportunity to increase our proficiency across a broad range of naval and shore-based operations and to improve our ability to operate together safely and effectively as we address the common challenges we face in the maritime domain,” stated Secretary Del Toro during the ceremony. “I am convinced that there is no better example of how we are strengthening our bonds with our partners and allies in the Western Hemisphere.”
After independence from Spain, Colombia began a longstanding partnership with the United States in 1882. The two nations regularly train and work with one another beyond the yearly UNITAS exercise through security cooperation missions and narcotic interdiction campaigns. According to the U.S. State Department, the initiatives of this partnership include combating criminal organizations, improving human rights, and enhancing security in the region. Each annual UNITAS further solidifies the relationship between the two nations.
Secretary Del Toro remarked, “It is my hope that our Navy and Marine Corps team’s presence here reassures all of you that the United States of America is committed to being a faithful and trustworthy partner as we work towards maintaining peace and stability throughout the region.”