Colombia War College visits U.S. Army South
September 10, 2009
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Sept 10, 2009) - Focusing on partnership and the sharing of ideas, U.S. Army South hosted students from the Colombia War College here on Sep 3.
More than 25 students, from the Colombian Army, Navy and Air Force, participated in the visit which focused on essential Army South missions and training and areas important to Colombia. Members of Army South briefed the students on various exercises and operations to include Fuerzas Aliadas Panamax, Beyond the Horizon and Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarian, which are operations and engagements conducted with Latin American partner nations to help foster hemispheric security and stability.
"This exchange contributed to a bigger vision about the politics of the United States in Latin America," said Lt. Col. Erik Rodriquez, Colombian Foreign Liaison Officer with Army South. "It also focused on the relationship building of U.S. Army South and Colombia military forces as partners in the world against terrorism and narco-traffic."
After the brief, the members of the War College received a tour of Fort Sam Houston which included visits to various wounded military recovery operations, to include the Warrior House and the Center for the Intrepid.
Colombia is in the midst of a decades-long conflict, pitting the government against two leftist insurgencies and a right-wing paramilitary organization. Colombia's 40-year war claims more than one-thousand lives a year. According to members of the war college, visiting these treatment and recovery sites was very important to them in order to better care for their wounded.
"We don't have facilities like this," said Lt. Cdr. William Palomino, Colombian National Armada. "We have a lot of soldiers with these problems, and these are examples for our government to help improve care."
While at the Center for the Intrepid, members of the war college were introduced to how the military treats their wounded who have suffered amputation, limb salvage and severe burns. The students were briefed on the various measures that the Center for the Intrepid uses to aid in the recovery of their patients to include a pool, an indoor running track, a two-story climbing wall, a prosthetic fabrication lab and a gait lab, which is a computer assisted rehabilitation environment.
"This is fantastic," said Brig. Gen. Javier Antonio Fernandez Leal, Director of Human Resources with the Colombia National Army. "We are very interested in wounded treatment and after care."
According to Fernandez the Colombia National Army is interested in sending members of their military to the United States in order to learn and develop similar programs due to the large number of service members wounded daily in combat as a result of the on-going war and drug trafficking.
"I am impressed by the advanced procedures and recovery standards of the Center to facilitate the reintegration of injured soldiers into everyday life in decent conditions," said Fernandez. "Also it is important that both the Center for the Intrepid and the Warrior house were built by donations and are staffed by volunteers. It indicates a society that recognizes a moral obligation towards their heroes wounded in war."
The visit by the members of the Colombia War College was well received by the students, not only for the overall experience but also for the sharing of information concerning missions, operations and the treatment of wounded service members.
"These visits are a good example of how the U.S. Army can share with other armies in order to help their partner countries," said Rodriquez.
With the range of experiences and knowledge that War College members gained, the participants look forward to future visits, conferences and exercises between countries, focusing on continued cooperation and enhanced relationships.
"The personal contact is always important to enhance our relationship," said Rodriquez. "Institutions are built by people and we can understand things better together when we work face to face with our partners."