USARSO's Continuing Mission
September 19, 2006
SOLDIERS and Defense Department civilians who have had the opportunity to serve in Central and South America immediately recognize the command's insignia: a white Spanish galleon, offset with a radiant red cross on a sail, enclosed in a brilliant blue circle.<br/><br/>The embroidered vessel has logged a few thousand miles since 1998 - on the uniform sleeves of the Soldiers who belong to the unit it represents. The patch has traveled from the command's former base at Fort Clayton, Panama; to Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico; and, now, to Fort Sam Houston, Texas.<br/><br/>With the relocations came workforce reductions, more than 7,500 military and civilian personnel in 1998. The command now includes fewer than 500 people, said COL Thomas A. Heaney Jr., USARSO's deputy commander for operations.<br/><br/>"Our mission is as important now as it has been throughout our history, given the challenges our country faces, as well as the challenges faced by other countries in our area of responsibility," said MG Jack Gardner, USARSO's commanding general. "We will continue to work with our counterpart armies to meet the challenges facing the region.<br/><br/>"We recently moved into our new headquarters and were honored to have members of the Honduran army as the first visitors to our command. We have an excellent relationship with them, and through such visits we can work on improving our ties," Gardner said.<br/><br/>"The opportunity to come to San Antonio and see the different organizations and support groups USARSO has developed is a wonderful experience for my soldiers," said Col. Romeo O. Vasquez Velasquez of the Honduran armed forces. "Additionally, we are thankful for all of the assistance we have received in Honduras from the multiple activities conducted by USARSO."<br/><br/>Among those is Peacekeeping Operation North, a USARSO and Honduran armed forces seminar held in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in August 2004. The seminars consist of roundtable discussions combined with practical exercises. Delegates from regional armies share experiences, discuss challenges and reveal lessons learned during real-world peacekeeping operations worldwide, said Heaney.<br/><br/>This year's PKO exercises will be held in the Dominican Republic and Brazil.<br/><br/>All of the exercises conducted in Honduras have improved the quality of life for the general population, said Velasquez. During exercises like New Horizons, U.S. and Honduran soldiers construct schools, medical clinics and other facilities. And the exercises provide the ideal opportunity for U.S. and Honduran soldiers to exchange training techniques and procedures, Velasquez said.<br/><br/>Through the USARSO-led New Horizons, Soldiers construct or repair infrastructure in Honduras and provide potable drinking water for communities. In 2004 the exercise provided four schools, two health clinics, three retaining walls and several road improvements.<br/><br/>Medical-readiness training exercises also are conducted each year in the USARSO theater. MEDRETES provide such medical services as vaccinations, medical and dental treatment, and veterinary care for livestock. MEDRETE exercises through July 0f 2004 treated more than 5,000 people, Heaney said.<br/><br/>Traditionally conducted by Army Reserve Soldiers with USARSO oversight, New Horizons and MEDRETE exercises this year also provided training opportunities for National Guard Soldiers, Heaney added.<br/><br/>USARSO's support of the armed forces of countries within its area of responsibility is also evident through a program called Plan Colombia, which assists the Colombian army in its crusade to rid that country of a significant terrorist threat, Heaney said.<br/><br/>Response to natural disasters also remains a strong joint effort. The Americas have experienced the devastation of earthquakes, mudslides and hurricanes. USARSO's Allied Humanitarian Forces forum, FAHUM, centers on regional cooperation, support and collaboration in combating the overwhelming effect natural and man-made disasters have on infrastructure and the general population, said MAJ Armando Santos, USARSO G-3 and FAHUM 2005 lead planner.<br/><br/>USARSO, the Army service component command of U.S. Southern Command, executes and is responsible for all Army operations within USSOUTHCOM's 15.6 million square-mile area of responsibility. This AOR consists of Central and South America and the Caribbean.<br/><br/>USARSO provides strategic and operational command and control of assigned U.S. land, sea and air forces, defends U.S. interests and assists friendly nations in the development of their militaries.<br/><br/>As part of the Army's unit-stationing plan, many major commands will be redesignated. U.S. Army, South, is one of the units to be aligned with the historic lineage of the Army. Updates on the unit-stationing plan can be found at www.army.mil/modularforces.