By By Robert R. Ramon, U.S. Army South Public AffairsNovember 13, 2008
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Nov. 13, 2008) - Senior army leaders representing five countries spent a week "Trabajando juntos para las AmAfAricas," or "Working together for the Americas," during the Central American Army Leaders Conference at the U.S. Army South headquarters here from Nov. 2-6.
Generals from four Central American partner nations arrived with their spouses for this relaxed forum hosted by ARSOUTH. Representatives included Guatemalan Army Defense Force chief-of-staff Brig. Gen. Ronald Mauricio Illescas, Honduran Army commander Brig. Gen. Jose Rosa Doblado, Nicaraguan Army chief-of-staff Maj. Gen. Julio Cesar Aviles, Salvadoran Army chief-of-staff Brig. Gen. Ruben Oswaldo Rubio and ARSOUTH commander Maj. Gen. Keith M. Huber.
"This is a better environment than when we are sitting in formal meetings," said Huber. "Sometimes all the protocol involved can be an obstacle."
The informal atmosphere was well received by each attendee and contributed to a constructive exchange of ideas and sharing of knowledge.
"My experience here with U.S. Army South and my fellow Central American generals makes me feel at home-as if I'm among friends," said Illescas.
Conducted completely in Spanish, the conference was designed to increase regional cooperation among partner nations and identify how each can assist in enhancing overall capabilities in the region.
"The interaction is very positive and ultimately helps all the people of the Central American region and the United States," said Doblado. "This conference is a great way to strengthen our relationships and cooperation."
Topics discussed included regional peacekeeping operations, humanitarian-assistance missions, natural-disaster response, capabilities specific to each country, and common threats and challenges faced throughout the region.
"There are a lot of ideas we can share with each other," said Huber. "We are family-it's not a clichAfA but a feeling that we have in our hearts."
Aviles said "the overall theme, 'Working together for the Americas,' is fitting since our countries have common concerns and our discussion of those concerns will be very productive."
Rubio commented that working together toward common goals by capitalizing on each country's individual strengths is an effective way to meet today's challenges.
"We all have different experiences and bringing those experiences together here makes all of our armies stronger," said Rubio. "With more coordination and effort such as this, we can ensure that future generations will live in a better world."
A focal point for Huber was ensuring that he gained a perspective from each partner nation's point-of-view rather than focusing solely on a single set of priorities.
"My focus is to try and clearly understand, from your perspective, what is important to you," Huber said to his counterparts. "I have a responsibility and privilege to share ideas with your armies in order to seek better ways to work together and be a member of your team. I have a lot to learn from each of you."
As the conference concluded, participants echoed their commitment to the partnership and pledged to continue the collaborative effort to bring about solutions to common threats in the region.
"We are all facing common threats," said Aviles. "We have been able to identify some of these threats and find ways to fight them together."
Overall, the conference reinforced a feeling of one family working together toward common goals.
This conference is a testament that "we all think about peace, development and the common good of our countries," said Aviles. "Central America is a group of small nations, but like the United States, we have big hearts and common aspirations."
The senior leaders took a break during the week-long conference to watch the historical presidential election unfold on television during a dinner hosted by Huber at the ARSOUTH headquarters Nov. 4. Also, Huber's wife Shelly accompanied the other generals' spouses through an Army Family Team Building presentation and tours of Brooke Army Medical Center's Center for the Intrepid and Fort Sam Houston's combat medic training during the week.