US Army South -- Advancing existing relationships, forging new ones

By Maj. Gen. Clarence K.K. Chinn, commanding general, U.S. Army SouthOctober 5, 2015

Organized crime, drug and arms trafficking, human smuggling, money laundering, counterfeiting, terrorism, border tensions, political instability, natural disasters and mass migration are significant threats and complex challenges within Latin America and the Caribbean.

With this in mind, U.S. Army South (ARSOUTH), the Army's land force in Central and South America and the Caribbean, maintains an active presence in the region as it supports U.S. national security objectives through proactive engagement and enduring partnership.

As the Army Service Component Command to U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), we work to partner with the armies of the hemisphere for our collective defense. Army South engages with 31 countries and 15 areas of special sovereignty in a region which covers roughly 15.6 million square miles and represents about 1/6th of the world's landmass. Our mission is to support multinational operations and security cooperation in order to counter transnational threats and strengthen regional security in defense of the homeland.

Theater Security Cooperation is imperative. We cannot protect the homeland without the broad cooperation of partner nations in a region that is vital to our national security. Conditions in the area of operations (AOR), just a short distance from the U.S. southern coast, present a real and present danger. For this reason we work to create, sustain and grow partnerships with armies throughout the region through a vast spectrum of programs and activities.

One key to successfully building partner nation capacity is the use of the Regionally Aligned Forces (RAF). ARSOUTH maintains depth through regional alignment with active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve units. Last year, the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) from the Georgia Army National Guard provided trainers, planners and advisors focused at the individual, unit and institutional levels. Highlights include: marksmanship, battle drills, drug identification, interview techniques, urban combat techniques, constitutional law, document recognition and border control operations. As a result, Central American (CENTAM) partners are better prepared to conduct independent interagency operations and protect their borders to detect, deter, and detain the illegal flow of arms and narcotics throughout the region. This year the 72nd IBCT from the Texas Army National Guard will be our RAF, with capacity building missions in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Additionally, National Guard State Partnership Program (SPP) units integrate and complement our regional efforts by maintaining enduring relationships with counterparts in the AOR. This combination of active and reserve forces provides a scalable, flexible, agile and responsive team with unique professional skills and unmatched experience. ARSOUTH conducts annual summits for the Army state adjutants general of select U.S. Army National Guard forces participating in the SPP to facilitate direct interaction and refine and prioritize theater engagement and security cooperation strategies within the SOUTHCOM AOR.

The SPP currently engages with 21 SOUTHCOM countries to match the resources of a designated U.S. state with the military and civic leadership of a partner nation to exchange military skills and experience, share defense knowledge, enhance partnership capacity and further mutual security cooperation. Last year, the SPP conducted more than 90 engagements supporting security cooperation throughout the region. In Jamaica, the District of Columbia National Guard organized a military-to-military exchange to assist with the development of Joint Operations Center procedures and cyber security awareness. In Haiti, Louisiana Army National Guard Soldiers provided training for the Haitian National Police Training Academy on basic patrol officer responsibilities, supervisor development, and specialized unit employment.

In addition to the excellent support by external organizations, ARSOUTH routinely engages our counterparts throughout the AOR by way of a vast spectrum of programs and activities including military and civilian professional development exchanges, staff assisted visits, assistance with new equipment fielding, and through partner nation forums like the CENTAM Regional Leaders Conference.

This annual conference promotes regional security cooperation among CENTAM senior military leaders in the areas of interoperability, information sharing, and countering transnational organized crime (CTOC). This year, senior military leaders from seven Central American countries and the Dominican Republic came together to discuss mutual security interests in an open, face-to-face forum. Each participant identified the significant threats in the region and actions needed to address specific problems through mutual cooperation. For some, this is an introduction to the military leaders of neighboring countries.

Furthermore, last year we also executed a series of dynamic engagements with the public security forces of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in support of CTOC, a SOUTHCOM-directed mission. The CTOC mission requires use of all available governmental resources to disrupt and degrade the national security threats posed by transnational organized crime and narcotics traffickers. These efforts strengthen security, break criminal and terrorist finances, disrupt illicit trafficking networks, strengthen the rule of law, and bolster judicial systems.

Another way we facilitate army-to-army engagement is through the U.S. Army Staff Talks Program. ARSOUTH currently conducts annual staff talks with the armies of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador and Peru on behalf of the Chief of Staff of the Army.

The program is part of a year-long planning process at the action officer level that culminates with a week-long senior leader engagement event. Participating armies improve knowledge and capabilities for peace-keeping, security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. At the end of the week-long event, the Army South commander and a senior leader from the partner army sign a bilateral engagement plan to conduct training and operational engagements together in the upcoming year. The result is that we are able to enhance our relationships with each partner army, foster mutual understanding through military-to-military cooperation, and assist partner armies in maintaining and developing new capabilities to support the mutual achievement of our security cooperation goals and objectives.

While there is still much work to do, through these programs and activities our partner nations have made tremendous progress in the areas of public security, human rights and rule of law. Through the effective use of limited resources, ARSOUTH, in its many roles, has helped promote a more stable region with reduced violence and greater multinational cooperation.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Colombian Army's (COLAR) transformation in pursuit of its vision to become a NATO-US interoperable force capable of global security missions by 2025, and focused on external, post-conflict defense.

Over the last decade Colombia has greatly reduced the threat in country and brought the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba. With an end to narco-insurgency in sight, the COLAR is now looking to the future configuration of its forces.

Telling of the enduring strength of our relationship is Colombia's desire to partner with the U.S. for planning and implementation of its Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration of the FARC. As SOUTHCOM explores options to provide assistance with these efforts, U.S. Army South remains prepared to provide any requested support.

Parallel to our efforts to expand partner nation capacity through cooperation and training, we continue to enhance our own mission capabilities and create enduring efficiencies during deployment and establishment of the Command's Joint Task Force Headquarters Deployable Command Post. U.S. Army South's Deployable Command Post serves as the nucleus of a Joint Task Force or Joint Forces Land Component Command headquarters that remains ready for deployment anywhere in the AOR.

We tested and strengthened our ability to serve as a JTF during the SOUTHCOM-led Integrated Advance 2015 exercise this year where we formed and led a joint task force to execute a large, complex operation in response to a mass migration scenario in the Caribbean. Migrant operations are one of our most likely missions and it's imperative that we, as well as our interagency partners, remain prepared.

Looking to the future, through persistent and effective engagement with partner nations, U.S. Army South is postured to face the challenges presented by transnational threats and chart a course for improved security and stability in the Western Hemisphere. Army South is committed to working together with our partner nations to ensure the Western Hemisphere continues to transform into a beacon of freedom, democracy and peace.

"Defense and Fraternity!"