Will Harlan (l) and Mark Lundblad (r) congratulate each other following the Table Rock 50 Mile.I set up an ambitious ultra running schedule this Fall. I wanted to meet some personal challenges and once again I tried something new. In the past 6 weeks I’ve put forth 170 miles of ultra distance race effort and I’m looking forward to hibernating for a bit this Winter.The culmination of my somewhat overzealous schedule was this past weekend at the Table Rock 50 Mile race here in WNC. The main reason I stuck with doing this race was because it promised to be a scenic, mountainous (8k of climb) and close to home. This race was also brand new and I knew the terrain and much of the course topography. Leading up to race day I internally went back and forth over whether to still do the race or maybe drop to the 50k distance that was offered. However in the end, the lure of running to the top of Table Rock Mountain got the best of me and I was fit so I stuck to my original intention of the full advertised 54 miles.I checked out the entrants list leading up to race day and felt fairly confident about my chances but one never knows what race day will bring. Usually it comes in the form of someone much younger than me who is really fast and they are stepping up to race ultras for the first time. I was secretly hoping that I would not have to dig too deep on this day as I knew I was racing on somewhat tired legs.Race morning brought chilly but nice running weather. It looked like it would be an enjoyable and peaceful run around the Linville Gorge Wilderness area. However, I still had this feeling like something was not right and I was definitely not wishing for anything remotely epic to occur for this race. From the start I got out front and slowly got a decent lead as we ascended up one of the many big climbs on the course. At mile 14 there is a spur out and back to Wiseman’s View and I hit my watch at the turn to see what kind of lead I had on my competitors. Sure enough that weird feeling I had at the start came to fruition as I rounded a turn, there was my good friend and beast of a runner Will Harlan. So my three minute lead seemed like three seconds and I knew it was game on.How I missed him at the start I’ll never know. Will does not race very often but when he does he is always ready to wreak havoc on the field. He also rarely talks about his racing plans and tends to show up at races at the last minute throwing a big monkey wrench into anyone’s hopes and dreams.After coming to grips with reality I kept pushing as best as I could. Somewhere around 2.5 hours of running (mile 19) the course comes off the mountainous gravel road and onto some mountainous roads. I felt awful and was hoping this was just one of those low points. I kept waiting for Will to pass me. I was actually hoping he would soon just so it could be over with. It is funny how your mind thinks when you are dog tired and being tracked down. I kept pushing forward never quite getting that second wind and just wondering when he would make his presence known. Somehow I managed to stay out front to the top of Table Rock Mountain (mile 34). A most scenic place but unfortunately I had no time or desire to take in the vistas. This would be my second chance to see if I had any lead left. Sure enough not too long after I headed back down the mountain Will was right there again about three minutes back. As I passed him I said “please take me out of my misery and take over the lead”. It truly felt inevitable but still I stayed in the lead for the long seven mile section down the mountain. At mile 42 you hit the last long stretch of twelve miles on hilly paved roads. As I approached the aid station finally Will showed up as if out of nowhere in stealth mode and we both refilled bottles and took off. I managed to get out in front of him and again started building a lead. I never felt sure of anything even with just a few miles to go and a 3 or so minute lead. I was hurting so bad and digging so deep that I was just hoping a car would run me over. That would be the easy way out. My legs were tying up, I was eating gels, popping S-caps, drinking coke, doing anything and everything possible to get to the finish line. Actually winning was never a solid thought as I knew from past races with Will that it was not over.I ran transfixed on the pavement in front of me as for looking around or any extra motion felt like too much. My heart was still in this race but my legs were not cooperating. Every big hill took one more notch out of my dwindling energy. On the last big hill before the somewhat flat 2.5 mile finish I was down to intermittent power walking and something that might have resembled running. I looked back in fear and sure enough I was being reeled in. The hook was solidly set in my gills and I was being yanked into Will’s boat.I soon could hear footsteps around mile fifty-two. I stuck my hand out to my side without looking to give Will his congratulatory five and he motored on past me. Normally I’m game for a fast finish and giving chase. The problem here was I had already done that, I had nothing left to give. I wanted to try and make a race out of it and not have it come to such a goofy looking shuffle the last mile. However that is what happens sometimes, I had to accept it. Overall I was pleased with the race as I gave 100% and never gave up which is all we can ever expect of ourselves. Having to take second place to my good friend is really not a bad thing. In hindsight tough competition makes the outcome win or lose that much more fulfilling. However I think Will should look into a second career as an undercover spy to go along with being a great ultrarunner and writer.
Photo courtesy of staff at Wilderness AdventureAppalachia Outposts: Tinker CliffsVirginia has a wide assortment of backyard activities. From climbing to caving and everything in between, keeping busy outside in Virginia is not a hard thing to do. So with a little time off, and a thirst for adventure, a small group of friends and myself got in the vehicle, took a short ride, and checked out one of the many scenic branches of the Appalachian Trail: Tinker Cliffs.Photo courtesy of staff at Wilderness AdventureLocated in Catawba (near Daleville) and off of Virginia 779, the Andy Layne Trail head is located right off the road. Starting the scenic 2.8-mile hike to the top is a couple of creek crossings, open cow pastures (watch your step!), and many well-maintained trails. The trails are all in good conditions as you push further on, but the grade quickly becomes steeper. And at times, you question to yourself, “Why am I climbing this mountain?”Photo courtesy of staff at Wilderness AdventureThe answer soon becomes clear as you reach the summit. The glorious views provided by Tinker Cliffs will take your breath away, make you appreciate hiking, and will simply amaze you. 1,700 feet above ground level gives you a bird’s eye view as you navigate across the cliffs and have a good time, definitely a must-do Virginia backyard activity.Go, get out and explore, and most of all, have a good time with it.-BradView Larger Map
It’s hard to imagine Bryan Sutton – easily the hottest bluegrass guitar player in the game today – feeling the need to come into his own.Sutton has toured with the likes of Bela Fleck and Chris Thile, been named the International Bluegrass Music Association’s guitar player of the year six times, produced a Grammy nominated record this year for Della Mae, has won three Grammys of his own – two during his time with Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder and one for a rendition of “Whiskey Before Breakfast” (with the iconic guitar player who happens to be the answer to the trivia question below) – and is one of the most in-demand sessions players in Nashville.What else did Sutton have to prove? Nothing really, except to make the record that only he could make. That record is Into My Own, which releases on Sugar Hill Records on April 29. Sutton has stepped up his game both as a songwriter and a vocalist, and his new record is his most well-rounded to date.As always, Sutton is joined by some of the hottest pickers in bluegrass. Sam Bush, Noam Pikelny, Stuart Duncan, Ronnie McCoury, Luke Bulla, and many others all lend their talents to this tight collection of bluegrass tunes.Trail Mix recently caught up with Bryan Sutton to chat guitars, bluegrass pickers, and that one guy he couldn’t believe he found himself on stage with.BRO – What’s your guitar of choice these days?BS – I’m fortunate to have some good options with guitars. I tend to let the gig or general need define what guitar I’ll use. I’ve been using a 1948 Martin D-28 for the last few years for most of the shows and sessions I’ve done. This guitar feels extremely natural to me. For Hot Rize shows, I enjoy playing Charles Sawtelle’s old 1937 D-28. For most recording sessions, I take a pile of guitars.BRO – You are spending more and more time in front of a microphone these days. Can you describe the challenge in growing your confidence as a singer?BS – The challenge for me as a singer has been trying to improve while doing. Lots of times, my best opportunities for real “practice” are in front of hundreds of people. Sort of trial by fire, I guess. I’m also surrounded by great singers who are supportive and have made me feel a little more competent and confident.BRO – We are featuring “Log Jam” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?BS – I experienced a pretty cool and short period of time where I wrote most of the instrumentals for this new record. “Log Jam” came out of this time. I came up with this little pattern at the top that I liked and I could recognize a groove, but the sense of a down beat was vague. It built from there and revealed itself as a kind of blues jam turned on its head.BRO – Who is your favorite bluegrass picker?BS – Don’t make me answer that. Without being an over-generalizer, I really recognize and honor certain individual strengths and contributions my favorite players have made and continue to make. That being said, it’s hard to overlook Tony Rice for his personal influence on me as a player and the kind of mark he’s made in bluegrass guitar playing in general. I don’t have a favorite ice cream flavor, ether.BRO – Have you ever met a bluegrass lick that’s gotten the best of you?BS – There’s this Kenny Baker phrase that most notably comes from his interpretation of “Muleskinner Blues.” I can do it, but it seems to not flow the way I should when I try it in context.BRO – Finish and elaborate, please: “Holy shit. I can’t believe I am on stage with . . .”BS – Jack Black. I worked on this record with this jazz bassist, Charlie Haden. Jack is his son-in-law, and we did the Opry a few years ago. We played a fast tune with a bunch of solos and Jack would fly around the stage like a wild man, dancing and carrying on. It was a hoot.Our North Carolina friends can catch Bryan Sutton on the road with David Holt and T. Michael Coleman at Merlefest on April 24th, at the Tryon Fine Arts Center in Tryon on May 9th, and at the High Point Theater in High Point on May 10th. Sutton returns to the stage with Hot Rize at Del Fest in Cumberland, Maryland, on May 23rd. For all of our Elevation Outdoors readers in Colorado, Bryan will be part of the Telluride House Band in June and will be in Lyons for both the Rockygrass Academy and a Hot Rize concert in July.For more information on Bryan Sutton, when he might be heading to a stage near you, or how to get a copy of Into My Own, surf over to www.bryansutton.com.In the meantime, Trail Mix would like to give you a shot at getting your hands on Bryan’s new record a few days early! Take a shot at the trivia question below. Email your answers to [email protected] A winner will be chosen from all of the correct answers received by noon on Thursday, April 17.Question . . . . Bryan won a Grammy award in 2007 for his performance with what legendary acoustic bluegrass/mountain blues guitar player and patriarch of Merlefest?
SLOW START, FAST FINISHIt’s no secret that the swim is my weakest event, but in the weeks leading up to the race, I was feeling a good bit smoother, and dare I say faster (yeah, I should not have dared…). However, I’ve never liked swimming in a wetsuit, which seems to blunt any feel for the water. To make matters worse, the boat John and I were on dropped our group off a good 30 yards behind the line, forcing a good sprint to try to make the line before the horn blew. I can honestly say I felt more like I was flailing around than swimming, but after a slow start, I picked up steam and hit T1 about 2 min back of the leaders.The swim tends to really blunt my power early on in the bike leg, so it’s better to work on finding a good rhythm and let the legs open up. Nonetheless, I was still making good progress cutting my way through the field on the opening lap. Going into the second lap my aim was to keep my lines smooth and my lap time even with or better than the first. I continued to pick off several more athletes, including a group of three just a mile from the end of the course. Without much of a buffer coming into T2, I needed to have a clean transition, which I was mostly successful at, leaving T2 shoulder to shoulder with two others.One noticeable differences between Xterra and road tri is that the runs are often more about who is less fatigued, or slow, than it is about speed. Nonetheless, I spend a good bit of time working on my running technique, as well as speed. After a fantastic BRICK the week before, I really felt like my run had come up a level this year. Objective 1 is to find your rhythm and turn over.I quickly moved myself into the front of the group on the dirt road. One of the guys dropped off pretty quickly while the other settled in behind me until about mile one where he pulled even. Knowing the course was a flat out and back and that I was still running at a comfortable pace, I knew the best thing to do was to keep my effort steady and see what happens; if he was stronger he’d either pull ahead or stay even. However, about a half mile later he fell back a few feet, then several seconds. At that point, I knew we were well back of the leaders, but nearing the turn around I found myself about 30 to 40 seconds back of 3rd and 18 seconds up on 5th. Hitting mile 3, I edged my pace up a bit to see what happened.As we emerged from the trail back on the road, I was now looking at 20 seconds to 3rd, so I decided to keep my effort where it was, knowing that the dirt road would be considerably faster.Sure enough, as we hit the final mile, third place was now really struggling, not to mention cramping. As I closed to within five seconds, he gave one more look back and started walking. I overtook him with a pat on the back and pushed on to my best ever finish, and the second fastest run, also a personal best! Unfortunately, the race opted for an abridged awards ceremony, so I had to settle for just the result and some high hopes for Alabama and Richmond in June.Special thanks to all my sponsors: Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, SLS3 Custom Apparel, Rudy Project, Honey Stinger, and Skratch Labs Thus far, the 2015 race season has proven to be a lesson in patience and perseverance. After a stellar fall and winter of training, 2015 looked to be shaping up to be spectacular. My first race, a trail half marathon, only seemed to confirm that those months of training paid off. However, three weeks following that race I found myself still recovering from a nasty respiratory infection and scrambling to rearrange my race schedule before the major Xterra Championships (Southeast and East) arrived.ALL YOU NEED IS A LITTLE PATIENCEAfter dropping two of my planned races, I opted to register for the slightly later—and hopefully warmer—Xterra Myrtle Beach Triathalon. About a week out my patience seemed to be paying off, so one of my Richmond buddies, John D., and I headed down to Myrtle Beach the morning before to get in a pre-ride of the MTB course. With more twists and turns than any course I can recall in even distant memory, the course would prove an interesting challenge, and limit my usual “road” strength.
Running Shop Owner Chases Down Much Slower VandalHuntington, W.Va. For weeks, employees of Robert’s Running and Walking Shop in Huntington were scared and extremely inconvenienced by ongoing incidents of their car windows being shot by a pellet gun.Earlier this fall, though, a shop employee caught a suspect in the act, witnessing a man shooting car windows parked at an insurance office across the street. The employee notified shop owner Robert Smith, who darted out the door along with another employee Ryan Smith (no relation). Suspect Robert Coffman tried to run away, but considering where he’d been vandalizing, the pursuit didn’t last long. “At the time I guess we weren’t laughing, but it seemed pretty comical,” Smith told new station WSAZ. “He was being chased by probably some of the best runners in the state.”After quickly catching Coffman and restraining him, Smith and Smith waited until police arrived. The police ended up finding drugs in Coffman’s apartment, so according to the news station he was charged with destruction of property.Brewery Sends Canned Water to Flood VictimsColumbia, S.C.The folks at Oskar Blues Brewery know how devastating floodwaters can be. In 2013, heavy rains ravaged the longstanding brewery’s home base of Lyons, Colorado, and the town has since been rebuilding. So earlier this fall the brewery, known as the first to offer craft beer in cans, sent 1,600 cases of canned drinking water to flood victims in South Carolina, where heavy rains caused damage throughout the state. Oskar Blues sent the cans through its own CAN’d Aid Foundation, which helps communities dealing with the effects of extreme weather events.In more brewery philanthropy news, Georgia-based Sweetwater Brewing Co. is currently donating proceeds from sales of its line of fly fishing rods and flies and related swag to Project Healing Waters, a non-profit organization that takes disabled veterans on fly fishing and other water-based recreation trips for therapeutic purposes. The brewery’s Healing for the Holidays program will last through the holiday season.Start the Year with a Polar PlungeNeed a baptism of renewal as you head into 2016? Start the year with a Polar Plunge, an annual rite of passage for many on New Year’s Day and the following weeks that simply entails jumping into a freezing body of water with some like-minded brave souls. On January 1, plenty of plunges will be taking place around the region, including the shiver-inducing soak within North Carolina’s Hickory Nut Gorge at the Lake Lure New Year’s Day Polar Plunge. There’s also the Polar Pony Plunge, which sends swimmers into the chilly waters of the Atlantic on Virginia’s Chincoteague Island. Later in the month the daring will plunge into the frigid waters of Chetola Lake in the North Carolina High Country at the Blowing Rock Winterfest on January 30. In February there’s also a Polar Plunge Festival that takes place throughout Virginia with chances to jump in Virginia Beach, Richmond, Dumfries and a dip in the New River at Bisset Park in Radford. More info: polarplunge.comBeyond the Blue RidgeBackcountry Bar—Winter Park, Colo.Upslope Brewing Company decided to make customers earn their first taste of its fall seasonal Oktoberfest Lager. Back in September the first pints of the brew were poured exclusively at a pop-up bar in the mountains that could only be reached via a 2.3-mile hike. Unveiled as part of Upslope’s limited Tap Room Series, Oktoberfest was available at what the brewery called its Backcountry Tap Room, set up at the High Lonesome Hut located just outside of Winter Park and surrounded by the Arapaho National Forest.Much Ado at Fall MarathonsThe fall marathon season yielded quite a few interesting tidbits. In Chicago, 42-year-old Deena Kastor posted a new U.S. Masters record time, finishing the race in 2:27:47. And 80-year-old local Frank Abramic running his 17th straight Chicago Marathon.Earlier in the month, runner Bryan Morseman won his 30th career marathon at the Wineglass Marathon in upstate New York eight days after winning the Mill Race Marathon in Columbus, Indiana. Morseman runs races to help cover his son’s ongoing medical costs for spina bifida treatments.And Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys ran the New York Marathon on November 1, an effort she was undertaking to raise money for Keep a Child Alive, a nonprofit that assists young HIV patients in Africa.
It’s the last month of summer folks. While we may be sad that our sunbathing and swimming days are almost over for the year, we couldn’t be more excited about our September issue! In this issue, we head down the singletrack of the region’s best Ride Centers, see how fast we can hike the Appalachian Trail, and we swing by the Jungles of Middle Tennessee to visit the elephants who call them home. That’s right, we said elephants in Middle Tennesse.
At the National Congress in Brasilia on 19 August, the U.S. company Boeing presented its F-18 E/F Super Hornet simulator, modeling one of the competitors in the FX-2 request for bids issued by the country for the acquisition of new fighter planes. In order to explain the plane’s technology and operation to interested Brazilian senators and members of Congress, the American company brought pilot Ted Hermann to the country, a Vietnam and Gulf War veteran with 3,900 hours of flight time and numerous decorations who is currently serving as a business development manager for Boeing’s international operations. With this exhibition, the firm aims to promote the selection of its plane in the competition for the acquisition of 36 fighter planes, in which it is competing against the French company Dassault and its Rafale and the Swedish Saab and its Gripen NG. The Boeing simulator has almost all the elements of a real F-18. It is equipped with a force feedback system that transmits the weight of the force of gravity and aerodynamic forces to the aircraft’s controls, enabling a simulation that is closer to a pilot’s actual sensations and reactions. In addition, with a 180-degree projection screen, the simulator can offer images of land, sea, cities, forests, highways, and buildings, as well as enemy planes, making it possible to simulate conventional operations not only on land runways, but also on aircraft carriers. Equipped with two seats, the simulator can recreate missions for both the one-seat and two-seat versions. At present, Super Hornet planes are part of the fleets of the U.S. Marines and the Australian Air Force, countries in which their use is supported by programs running through 2035. According to Boeing executives, a series of improvements and modernizations will maintain these versatile fighter planes in perfect condition until the end of their useful lives. Another point in favor of the American jet is the fact that it is a plane designed for and used on aircraft carriers, something that might point toward the possible selection of F-18s by the Brazilian Navy to replace the veteran AF-1s (A-4K Skyhawks) operating from the aircraft carrier São Paulo. By Dialogo August 23, 2011
The Salvadoran Armed Forces (FAES, for its Spanish acronym) recently shared their post-conflict experiences with instructors and officials from the Superior War School of Colombia during a special meeting at the headquarters of the FAES’ College for High Strategic Studies in San Salvador. Since April 18, 600 highly specialized military personnel have been patrolling the streets of the country’s 50 most dangerous towns alongside the National Civil Police (PNC) to ensure peace. Additionally, 1,000 members of specialized units have been deployed since July throughout the country’s entire public transit system. They travel in pairs, select routes and buses randomly between 6 a.m. – 9 p.m., and protect the public from possible gang attacks. “The upcoming challenges that the Colombian Armed Forces will have to overcome during the peace negotiation process will deal with combating terrorism and violence that are products of drug trafficking. In addition, security problems that used to be taken care of by the Police alone – such as migration or the illegal trafficking of weapons and chemical substances – are all now considered to be ‘new threats.’” At the close a recent meeting, Brigadier General Carlos Mena Torres, the Salvadoran Air Force’s General Chief of Staff, highlighted the importance of such meetings between fellow security forces. Transitioning toward peace “Ever since we achieved peace, it has been of utmost importance for us to share with other military forces how the Salvadoran Armed Forces have developed post-conflict, and it continues to support the ongoing efforts aimed at protecting the public from emerging threats.” “This exchange of information concerning successful strategies to combat terrorist groups gathered over the last 23 years can end up being very useful now for Colombia, as it finds itself in the midst of a peace negotiation process,” said Colonel Juan Molina, the Operational Chief for the FAES Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the end of one of the meetings on September 5. The process of transitioning toward peace in Colombia will involve security and defense challenges, said Brigadier General Rodrigo Valencia, Chief of Staff of the Colombian Air Force’s Joint Special Operations Command. Since El Salvador’s internal armed conflict ended in 1992, the FAES has become known for their peacekeeping efforts, providing national security and supporting law enforcement agencies in combating illegal armed groups, including the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs. “The Latin American Armed Forces are facing what we call ‘emerging threats’ such as gangs and conflicts with drug traffickers.Thus, it has been very important for us to learn from the experiences of our Salvadoran colleagues, their theoretical underpinnings, and the tactics they have used in the field to combat these groups that appear after a conflict, such as those which Colombia is currently combating.” El Salvador’s Ministry of Defense won’t release the results of these operations, citing an effort to protect the methods’ security and effectiveness. However, data has been made public for the “Safe House” operations, where the Military and PNC work together to clear out the abandoned homes that gangs use illegally to plan crimes. This year, authorities have closed 381 of the approximately 6,300 occupied houses and arrested 1,178 alleged gang leaders. Due to these “new threats,” learning about the strategy used by their Salvadoran colleagues to perform operations that aim to keep the peace allows the Colombian Armed Forces to accumulate tested knowledge. By Dialogo November 23, 2015
By Robert Shaw/Diálogo July 29, 2016 As both the Colombian Army and the police prepare for a new post-conflict era in the country, new divisions will be created “with a focus on cutting-edge technology and mobility,” like the special forces, according to recent statements by Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas. Direct and local access to Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) technology will be crucial in the coming years for border surveillance and the monitoring of illicit substances. That’s why, Colombian Army Lieutenant Colonel José Forero, from the José María Rosillo Maintenance and Supply Battalion, believes it’s important for the Army to be at the forefront of using new technologies that are produced locally. Launch of New Army Cobra 2.0 Vehicle On June 10th, the Army’s Maintenance and Supply Battalion launched the first models of a self-built, multi-purpose vehicle called the Cobra 2.0 Tactical Unit – which is a light, agile, and adaptable Jeep-type sports utility vehicle using the latest technology on the market. “It’s the first vehicle of its type designed, created, and assembled in Colombia,” Lt. Col. Forero told Diálogo. “We have six of these vehicles in use and have an additional 30 in line for 2017.” With support from South Carolina’s National Guard and U.S. Southern Command for the Army’s Maintenance and Supply Battalion, this new tactical model gives Colombia’s Army increased mobility to move faster on the battlefield. According to Erich Saumeth, a defense and security expert for defense news website InfoDefensa, these new technologies will assist the Army in dealing with both the remaining and new threats that undermine security efforts throughout Colombia. “In the coming years, the use of mobile real-time technology will be paramount to tackle both the ongoing attacks by ELN the [National Liberation Army] on oil pipelines and newer threats posed by criminal narcoterrorist gangs,” Saumeth said. The primary use of the Cobra 2.0 vehicle is to combat drug trafficking and organized crime as well as border security missions. The vehicle is equipped with anti-tank missiles and both M60 E4 and 0.50 MK 40mm caliber machine guns. “It was designed to be optimally aerodynamic, extremely light, and fully adaptable using a weaponry system with a rear turret capable of firing in a 360-degree swivel motion,” Lt. Col. Forero said. At the same time, the rear of the vehicle can be transformed into an ambulance for humanitarian missions and can also be hooked to and transported by helicopter when necessary. UAV Systems Used for Counterinsurgency and Counternarcotic Missions The vehicle is also supported by a drone system that sends information directly to the commander giving him maximum situational awareness in terms of terrain and potential hostile actors. Saumeth says that Colombia is a regional pioneer in drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) deployment, using them intensively in the development of counterinsurgency and counter narcotics missions. “The Army uses them primarily for ground operations to increase tactical operational capacity on ISR-type missions in real-time field operations by maximizing coverage of the combat arena,” Saumeth said. Since 2013, the Army’s Special Forces have been using the Parrot AR-Drone, the Aerovironment RQ-11B Raven, and the Aerovironment RQ-20 Puma UAV’s for counter-insurgency missions. “We will start building the Cobra 3.0 in January next year,” Lt. Col. Forero said. “We have discussed using GPS tracking systems and it is very likely to be incorporated into the new version, but we haven’t yet determined which system we will use.” A select number of Cobra 3.0 models will be ready for use in mid-2017. Police Target Quick Reaction and Response Times According to Saumeth, the Colombian police force also uses a range of cutting edge ISR technology for preventive security measures, taking advantage of both quick reaction and response times. Colonel Giovanny Riaño Garzón, chief of the Counterterrorism and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Defense Unit of the National Police´s Directorate of Criminal Division and Interpol, told Diálogo that much of its work requires increased mobility and flexibility due to the Colombian terrain. “We use the latest models in anti-explosive robots including an OD model and the U.S.-manufactured Andrus remote-operated devices together with GPS-referenced coordinates in high-risk zones like Choco, Norte de Santander, Antioquia, Arauca, and Cauca,” Col. Riaño said. “The explosives we encounter are typically homemade by organized crime groups, the FARC and the ELN, with the former using grenades and the latter primarily IED’s,” Col. Riaño added. Col. Riaño also detailed how his forces will use new technologies to combat chemical and nuclear arms devices as part of their CBRNE response units. “We have about 50 radiation detectors and are prepared to deal with a potential attack using chemical weapons such as Sarin gas. At the moment we operate from Bogotá, but next year we plan to expand to various departments across the country,” Col. Riaño concluded.
By Marcos Ommati/Diálogo December 24, 2018 In October 2016, retired Peruvian Navy Rear Admiral Francisco Calisto Giampietri returned to active duty as a vice admiral to lead the Joint Special Operations and Intelligence Command (CIOEC, in Spanish) to, in his own words, “help stamp out remnants of the Shining Path,” a terrorist organization that still operates in the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers Valley (VRAEM, in Spanish). In September 2018, Diálogo visited the Joint Special Force’s headquarters in Chorrillos, Lima, to speak with Vice Adm. Calisto about the operations elite units carry out in the country. The officer retired in December. Diálogo: Why was the Joint Special Operations an Intelligence Command created? Peruvian Navy Vice Admiral Francisco Calisto Giampietri, commander of CIOEC: CIOEC was created in response to a requirement that initially focused on VRAEM, because that was the priority at the time, about 10 years ago. That’s how the VRAEM Special Command [CE-VRAEM, in Spanish] was created; it then became necessary to increase operations based on operational intelligence, which in the end led to tactical operations. And CIOEC was created because many of these were non-conventional operations, involving personnel with more operational capacity than regular troops. Diálogo: Why? Vice Adm. Calisto: Because in Peru our troops are geared toward military service. As such, most service members didn’t have adequate experience for the job required in the very complex VRAEM area. For example, altitude ranges between 600 and 4,800 meters above sea level. So, during an operation, soldiers might start at 600 m and end at 3,200 m. This need to adapt to the terrain goes beyond what a regular soldier is used to. So we found it necessary to use special forces. This special command is restricted to the VRAEM area of operations, which every now and then is declared as an emergency area. Diálogo: When do you declare a state of emergency? Vice Adm. Calisto: The Police monitors domestic order. When it’s disrupted in certain specific areas, a state of emergency is declared. Here, some prerogatives are lost. For example, citizens cannot circulate freely without their ID. There are several restrictions, and in emergency areas there might be two types of control for domestic order: first, police control, and second, military control. VRAEM is in an emergency area. This is renewed every 30 or 60 days, depending on the situation, and the domestic order is monitored by the military, which means that the CE-VRAEM commander has control over the Army, Air Force, Navy, and local police. They have a legal responsibility and are authorized by law to keep order, which wouldn’t occur in normal situations, because the Armed Forces don’t have that right, except in VRAEM. Diálogo: Why isn’t the Shining Path deemed a narcoterrorist group? They currently survive on narcotrafficking, without their old communist ideology, correct? Vice Adm. Calisto: The ideology is still present on the orthodox side of the organization, but in a very basic way. They use this platform to influence the population with fear and other threats. The term “narcoterrorism” doesn’t exist in our legislation. We have narcotrafficking, and we have terrorism. Both are interrelated, it’s true. But legal changes are not as fast as operational ones. To change laws, they have to go through Congress, and this is a long process. So there is no legal term to define narcoterrorism. If I arrest you on narcoterrorism charges, you can go free tomorrow, because that category doesn’t fall under any law. Diálogo: Do Peruvian special operators act mainly in VRAEM? Vice Adm. Calisto: Currently, yes. We are more active in VRAEM. But we also operate in Putumayo, and we can also operate in the north and south, because special operations are conducted everywhere. So CIOEC became an operational command. We had an operation in Putumayo back in July, where, among other things, we neutralized several labs and arrested 51 illegal immigrants who had crossed the Putumayo River into Peru for narcotrafficking. We destroyed four labs there. We are prepared to work all over Peru, and that’s why we became an operational command. Diálogo: How is the operational command composed? Vice Adm. Calisto: The Army, Navy, and Air Force comprise it. Based on my requirements, they give me their troops. At present, I tend to a theater of operations that is a permanent client: CE-VRAEM. My requirement for special operations is clearly determined in a directive. So we determine the magnitude of the force we need to use. For example, let’s say I need 36 platoons. I cannot go to the Army and request 36 platoons. The Army can’t deploy 36 platoons to my command and end up without any personnel. What we do is a mixture, depending on the amount of people each institution has. Generally, the Army is the branch with more personnel. We may request some platoons from the Army, then some from the Navy, and some from the Air Force. They leave their areas of responsibility and come under my operational control. They are no longer part of the Army, or the Navy, or the Air Force. They come from there, but I coordinate them. Based on my requirements, I assign them their mission, remove them, move them, and send them back. There are operations in which the Army platoon is supported by the Navy platoon, or both become part of a joint operation—even with the National Police, which deploys agents for my operational control. They have access to privileged intelligence that I don’t, for example, such as tapped phones. Diálogo: Can you mention any recent combined operation the Peruvian special forces conducted with the United States, especially U.S. Southern Command [SOUTHCOM]? Vice Adm. Calisto: I won’t specify what we did, but we had this ongoing operation, Operation Tenacious (Operación Tenaz). Before the operation, the United States helped us a lot with intelligence. The information SOUTHCOM provided helped us greatly to carry out the operation. Later, during the operation it was DEA that gave us tactical support to conduct the operations through specialized information. That way, we were able to get direct feedback from DEA during the operation. To my knowledge, we never had a DEA officer in the Peruvian Operational Intelligence Command’s General Staff during an operation. In other words, we had a DEA officer by our side while we operated. Therefore, our requirements were handled by DEA in real time, and they helped the operation at the tactical level. Diálogo: Is Peru conducting combined training with other countries in the region, apart from the United States? Vice Adm. Calisto: With Colombia, we have a fluid two-way communication, which helped greatly in the organization of this unit [CIOEC]. Colombia’s CCOES [Special Operations Joint Command] has a lot of experience. We don’t have as many helicopters; we don’t have as many people. The situation in Colombia is different from the situation in Peru. Our issue is much more focused. In Colombia, it was a bit wider. They have Plan Colombia; we don’t have a Plan Peru. We have support on other levels, but our problem is also focused on a certain area. Even so, the experience Colombia gained was replicated here. Colombian officers came; we have an ongoing, mutual support plan with them. Diálogo: What is your main challenge? Vice Adm. Calisto: My main challenge is the challenge of Peru: to stamp out this terrorist remnant organization that exists in VRAEM. It’s true that it is symbiotically related to narcotrafficking, and stamping out this scourge is almost impossible. But this doesn’t mean that we won’t keep fighting this. Our main focus is to deactivate the terrorist cell that exists in the area, a process we’ve better focused and tightened little by little. That’s my job. That’s why I’m back. I’ve been assigned to this unit, and I hope to help put an end to this. We conduct real operations, and we must put an end to this as soon as we can.