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News | Jan. 25, 2016

U.S., Brazilian, and Chilean Judge Advocates Participate in UNITAS 2015

By U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command Public Affairs

Three judge advocates traveled to Valparaiso, Chile and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil to support U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet UNITAS Atlantic and UNITAS Pacific exercises this fall.

Lt. Elan Ghazal, deputy fleet judge advocate at U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, acted as the staff judge advocate for the Multi-National Force Commander and combined exercise control group in Chile and Brazil. Lt. Dave Welch, staff judge advocate at Naval Submarine Support Command Kings Bay, and Lt. Phil Rohlfing, staff judge advocate at Surface Squadron 14, advised the flag officers acting as the Task Force Commanders in Chile and Brazil respectively.  Supporting the Combined Task Group Commander in both Chile and Brazil was Lt. Cmdr. Geraldo Padilla, staff judge advocate for Carrier strike Group (CSG) 9.

They were joined by partner nation judge advocates Capitans de Corbeta Marcella Vergara and Patricio Schiavetti of the Chilean navy and Tiente Fernandes of the Brazilian Navy.

Judge advocates were called upon during the exercises to interpret rules of engagement, monitor the battle watch, and provide advice to commanders and operational planners.  Many discussions centered on customary international law, actions authorized by the United Nations Security Council Resolution, and multi-national rules of engagement.

Conceived in 1959, UNITAS has taken place each year since 1960.  UNITAS is intended to train participating forces in a variety of maritime scenarios to test command and control of forces at sea while operating as a multinational force acting under a United Nations Security Council Resolution.  

The overall objectives of the exercise focus on developing coalition building; multilateral security cooperation; promoting tactical interoperability; promoting friendship, professionalism, and mutual understanding among the participating partner nations.  

More than 5,000 military personnel representing seventeen nations from the Americas, Africa, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand gathered in Valparaiso, Chile in October and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in November to exercise a multi-national regional response to a two-state conflict involving participation by non-state actors.  

The participation of Aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), Carrier Strike Group NINE (CSG 9), Destroyer Squadron 23, embarked Carrier Air Wing TWO (CVW 2), USS Chafee (DDG 90), USNS Guadalupe (T-AO 200), U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet staff, VP-9, VP-62 ANG KC-135, and U.S. Navy Reserve augumentees, made UNITAS 2015 one of the largest in the exercise’s history. 

The multinational aspect of the exercise allowed for education and discussion on the role of an operational legal advisor in various countries.

UNITAS 2015 provided valuable opportunities to work hand in hand with the fleet and engage with partner nation judge advocates and line officers.  Participating flag officers from Chile and Brazil specifically lauded the counsel received from participating judge advocates and continually stressed the importance of working the multi-national rules of engagement during the exercise.

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