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Spanish army
Ministry of Defence
Spanish army

Ejército de Tierra

Feature Articles

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Number: 92

The Army’s plan in the Balearic Isles

A year after the flooding in San Lorenzo (Majorca) in October 2018, very few people in the area could forget about the victims of the flooding and the many injuries which people suffered. As well as this, they remember the support which was offered to the area, which represented a great deal of work from the Army during that time.

 

 

 

The Army’s intervention is not improvised or casual, and requires a huge amount of effort and preparation in order to face this type of situation. The General Command of the Balearic Islands (COMGEBAL) made use of the Balearic Security Plan between the 15th of May and the 15th of September. With this plan they are looking to be prepared and understand how they should intervene to help the relevant authorities.

The Plan acts as training for the units and as instruction for the staff. In this way they ensure that, should an emergency arise, the support they offer will be as effective as possible, as well as having prior knowledge about the most vulnerable areas or when to provide material equipment.

The initiative comes from the COMGEBAL and it was its current chief, General Cifuentes, who put it in to action in 2016. Since then it has been consolidated and diversified. Currently, its efforts are focused in different areas.

During the activation of the Balearic Security Plan it moves from the preparation phase to the readiness phase. The four main ideas are to carry out interventions with a military presence on the islands, increase knowledge of the situation, participate in environmental preservation activities and to increase the civil population’s awareness of the Army.

The Balearic Security Plan’s operating radius extends to the islands of Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Cabrera. During the four months they set up a permanent detachment on the island of Cabrera and in Cabo Pinar in Majorca. They also establish a semi-permanent presence in the manoeuvre and shooting ranges, as well as in the rest of the instruction zones.

 

Coordination is essential to the Balearic Security Plan. Therefore, the Preparation Platoon from the Chiefs of Staff is responsible for “monitoring the activities of the archipelago, in contact with the civil authorities,” explains Major Cherino, head of the platoon. All of their efforts are working towards the Balearic Islands having a plan which guarantees effectiveness, should it be needed.

 

The plan acts as training

for the units and as

instruction for the staff

 

 

Patrols to get closer

With the aim of increasing their knowledge about the area and establishing contact with the civil authorities, they have established weekly patrols on foot and with vehicles. “This year we have focussed more on the critical points of last year’s flooding,” explains Lieutenant Rojo, chief of the vehicle patrol.

Prior knowledge of the terrain allows them to act quicker should they need to take action. Therefore, the itinerary changes for each patrol. “They contact the Guardia Civil and Municipal Police in each municipality in advance to tell them about the patrol’s presence in their district,” he says. Once they are there they speak with them again, to share knowledge about the area.

As well as the patrols on foot and the vehicle patrols, they also carry out officer patrols, in which a more specific study is made. These patrols are conducted on a monthly basis.

A day with the patrol

The Tierra team wanted to join the patrol’s vehicle convoy to see what their job is on any given day. The first stop is the village of Buñola. There they find an agent waiting for them to arrive: “They told us you would come, this type of measure is very important to improve communication,” he highlights. The route continues and the second stop is the Marrachí area. There, they discuss the situation in the area with the inspector. “When there is solidarity and coordination, the work is better,” he says. The vehicle patrols facilitate greater knowledge of the area and contact with the civilian authorities, and are also complimented by the foot patrols and the officers patrols.

 

Presence in Cabrera

The Island of Cabrera, now a Maritime-Terrestrial National Park, was until recently a manoeuvre and shooting ground supported by the Command. The last military manoeuvres took place on the island in 1979. Now, it is the property of the Ministry of Defence, although due to its status as a National Park, there are strict restrictions for its maintenance.

By activating the Balearic Security Plan, the Army reinforces its presence on the island through a detachment which completes weekly rotations. As well as maintaining the facilities, it contributes to the preservation of the environment and avoids intrusion in the area.

Corporal González had the opportunity to lead the first and last detachment of the 2019 Balearic Security Plan in Cabrera. “Before we left we carried out an inventory and highlighted possible improvements which could be made, thinking ahead to next year,” he says. Furthermore, he notes that the objectives have been successfully achieved for another year.

The Army’s work on land is essential, but so too is the work they do to clean marine areas. Recently, through an agreement from the cabinet on the 1st of February 2019, the maritime area of the National Park has been increased. With this agreement, neighbouring maritime spaces have been added to the existing area. The planned extension will incorporate an additional 80,773.17 hectares which, in addition to the current area, will increase the area to a total of 90,793.95 hectares.

 

Some history

Administratively, Cabrera belongs to Palma de Mallorca and lies 17 kilometres off the coast of Mallorca. Throughout history, various groups including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Byzantines used the island as a refuge. The military nature of the island protected it from the development of tourism. In 1991, the Maritime-Terrestrial National Park was created and in 2002 Defence and Environment established an agreement to regulate the use of military facilities.

 

 

Cleaning the Seabed

The Army also promotes work which cleans the seabed. This task is essential to the preservation of the environment. On the 18th of September, the team of divers carried out the work on the island. Three different groups carried out the work: one worked to clean the surface of the beaches, another worked in shallow water and a team of divers worked in the deepest areas of water.

 

 

Emergency Unit

With the activation of the Balearic Security Plan, they are carrying out military actions in support of the Military Emergencies Unit (UME), and establishing teams to be the first support element should they be needed and before the UME can be sent to the area. In this way, the Command establishes an emergencies unit with the aim of helping, protecting and supporting the civil population when faced with the consequences of naturally occurring catastrophes, whether they be meteorological, seismic or otherwise.

Currently, the unit is under the supervision of Captain Andújar, who commands one of the companies from the ‘Philippines’ I/47 Battalion. However, contact with the UME is essential at all times.

To facilitate this connection, a soldier serves as a link between the two. “When the emergency state has been activated, there is a constant telephone link,” says Major Campos, who currently performs this role.

The intervention is established in three teams according to priority, with the possibility of all three being activated in three, six and nine hours respectively. It ranges from initial support, to support from engineers, transportation of victims, or logistical support.

 

Evaluation of the 2019 Plan

 

Throughout this year, the Balearic Security Plan has completed the following tasks:

  • Days with a permanent presence in Cabrera: 120
  • Days with a permanent presence in Cabo Pinar: 123
  • Patrols in manoeuvre and shooting grounds: 118
  • Patrols to establish presence: 17
  • ŸOfficers patrols: 4
  • Foot patrols: 9
  • Continued training days: 4
  • Training days within the Functional Programme for Engineers: 68
  • Days supporting the Military Emergency Unit: 122
  • Recruitment to the emergencies unit: 1
  • Cleaning the seabed in Cabrera: 1
  • Military exercises in smaller islands: 2
  • Days to fine-tune the plan: 9
  • Security patrols to safeguard against fires: 123