By Master Sgt. Kevin Doheny, U.S. Army South Public AffairsApril 15, 2013
GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala--Maj. Gen. Frederick S. Rudesheim, U.S. Army South commanding general, visited Guatemala Apr. 8-11, and met with senior government officials and military leaders to discuss bilateral security cooperation and the establishment of a new Guatemalan border security unit supported by the U.S.
Rudesheim, along with the Guatemalan key leaders who are directly involved with the formation of the new Guatemalan Interagency Border Unit, traveled by helicopter to view the unit's forward operating base near the Mexican-Guatemala border. The group also visited the IABU's headquarters location and to the Guatemalan army's military academy.
The IABU will function as a battalion-sized element comprised of Guatemalan army soldiers who will work alongside police and Ministry of Justice personnel to execute security operations along the Mexican-Guatemalan border to counter transnational crimes and trafficking. The Guatemalan soldiers and police recently began training together, and are expected to be qualified and ready for operations this summer.
"Guatemala is the last line of defense before any drug trafficker can make it to Mexico," said Maj. Henry Munoz, army section chief in the U.S. Office of Security Cooperation-Guatemala. "Guatemala's effort to bring together the various government institutions involved in countering transnational threats to form the Inter-Agency Border Unit should help deter illegal activities along the Mexican-Guatemalan border."
The training of the unit's personnel will be conducted by Guatemalan institutions, active duty U.S. Army Soldiers, National Guard Soldiers from Texas Military Forces, U.S. Border Service and Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation personnel.
These various organizations will provide instruction on command and control operations, reconnaissance, security operations, proper coordination and roles between police forces and judicial authority, communications, weapons, and vehicle operations. Human Rights training will continue to be reinforced and incorporated throughout each phase.
The U.S. is donating vehicles and protective equipment to the IABU personnel. During his key-leader engagements, Rudesheim discussed with Guatemalan leaders their plan to sustain operations long-term after the initial U.S. assistance is delivered for the IABU.
"This is a tangible demonstration of the Guatemalan government's commitment to enhancing security cooperation in the region," said Rudesheim. "This concept has the potential to be used as a model for other countries within Latin America."
Also during his visit to Guatemala, Rudesheim was able to accomplish key objectives by meeting with the Guatemalan Minister of Defense, Chief of National Defense Staff, National Security Advisor and the 5th Vice Minister.
He also had the opportunity to meet with the U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala, Arnold A. Chacon, as well as military personnel from the U.S. Office of Security Cooperation in Guatemala. These discussions focused on ways to improve the coordination of U.S. Army support to Guatemala on countering of transnational threats and in the establishment of the IABU.
"This visit was my first opportunity to meet with key leaders here in an effort to continue to further our partnerships in the region," said Rudesheim, who made his first visit to Guatemala since assuming command of Army South last September. "I met the commander of the [Guatemalan] army at the Central American Regional Leader's Conference in January and it was good renewing our relationship."
The Central American Regional Leader's Conference this year was hosted at the Army South headquarters at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and provided the respective armies and security forces' leaders a forum to engage in open dialogue, to facilitate the understanding of mutual regional security issues and to discuss potential collaborative solutions. The overall objective of the conference is to promote peace and stability in Central America through mutual understanding, partnership and cooperation, and to discuss ongoing operations such as Operation Martillo.
Guatemala is partnered with the U.S. and 14 other countries supporting Operation Martillo. Operation Martillo is a U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner-nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.
In 2012, the contributions of Guatemala and other nations supporting the operation helped increase illicit trafficking disruptions in the region by 30 percent compared to the previous year.
The U.S. military participation in Operation Martillo is led by Joint Interagency Joint Task Force-South, a component of U.S. Southern Command.
"With Guatemala's support in Operation Martillo, support of the new IABU, various regional security and peacekeeping exercises, and along with their support of annual leadership conferences, Guatemala continues to be a strong partner with the U.S.," said Munoz. "Maj. Gen. [Frederick] Rudesheim's trip was a testament to this strong partnership and the success we've had in building partner capacity."