By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo July 13, 2016 The Chilean Army is strengthening its ability to respond to natural disasters and provide humanitarian assistance with the creation of its first-ever deployable military camp in northern Chile. The new rapid-deployment unit, which can temporarily house as many as 200 soldiers, is the result of a $1 million investment. The unit is assigned to the 23rd Infantry Regiment of Copiapó due to its response when devastating floods hit the region in mid-2015. At that time, Chilean Army soldiers helped the civilian population remove debris, reopen roads, clean up a canal, and build a retaining wall to prevent water and mud from wreaking further havoc. “This tragedy demonstrated the need to acquire a mobile military camp so we can come to the aid of civilians in cases of disasters and other emergencies,” said Lieutenant Colonel Andrés Rudloff Álvarez, commander of the Chilean Army’s 23rd Regiment and the Atacama Military Garrison to Diálogo. The center will serve the needs of military personnel who help the community during disasters. “These facilities allow the Army to have a multi-purpose capability. We can use [the center] for training, and the facilities will allow officers to rest, eat, and shower, and then continue conducting a particular military action,” Lt. Col. Rudloff said. “We are in a zone where there is no facilities support.” The military unit consists of 12 modules built with aligned aluminum and recycled material held together with waterproof glue. It is transported in six trailers hitched to the back of the trucks used to carry the troops. The stand-alone camp measures 1,380 square meters. “The camp is eco-friendly and complies with the Army’s policy of not polluting the environment. Moreover, it can store as much as 30,000 liters of water, enough to sustain 100 persons for seven days. Setting up the multi-use tent requires a space at least the size of a soccer field: 90 meters by 45 meters,” Lt. Col. Rudloff added. Components The camp includes a medical center comprised of inflatable tents and first-aid and medical-stabilization equipment. It has mobile electrical generators, a storage trailer, freezer, sewage treatment plant, a recreation area, kitchen, washrooms, and toilets. The field logistics company trained 14 members of the Army to set up the military center in April. Chilean officials spent two weeks learning how to put up the center and make all electrical and hydraulic connections. By the end of the training, the soldiers were able to deploy the military unit in 72 hours. “In the second half of July, we will begin trying to use more people in order to deploy the military center more quickly, ideally within 24 hours. We are in the process of training people, giving each one a specific function,” Lt. Col. Rudloff said. “Should there be an emergency in the northern zone of the national territory, we are prepared to deploy the unit and aid the population.” Natural Disaster Response The Chilean Armed Forces demonstrated their effective rapid-response capacity during the floods in Atacama and the earthquake in northern Chile. On March 25, 2015, torrential rains in the cities of Copiapó and Chañaral in the Atacama region killed more than 28 people, left 59 missing, and destroyed houses and public facilities. Chilean Military authorities responded quickly, providing aid to the civilian population in cooperation with civilian governmental agencies and private companies that supplied specialized debris-removal equipment. Chile is investing heavily in regulations, infrastructure, training, and emergency planning to prepare the country and the government’s workforce to tackle natural disasters. The Army plans to dedicate more than 300 vehicles to improve its ability to transport personnel and cargo, as well as to evacuate civilians affected by disasters. Likewise, it plans to purchase special equipment that will allow it to undertake military operations and lend support to the National System of Civilian Protection, according to the website Infodefensa on May 26th. According to Lt. Col. Rudloff, authorities are evaluating whether to assign two more deployable military centers to lend aid to the population in emergencies and natural disasters that threaten the security and well-being of people in the country’s central and southern regions. “Mother Nature will continue to surprise us, so we must be prepared and have the support capabilities in place,” he said.