BRASILIA, Brazil – The Brazilian Army hosted the 35th cycle of the Conference of American Armies, or CAA, with participants from 24 member, observer and special observer armies in attendance opening on the theme – "Army of the Future."
Brazilian Army Gen. Marco Antônio Freire Gomes welcomed the senior Army leaders, bringing attention how the pandemic in 2020 prevented the delegations to meet in person during the 34th CAA cycle which was to take place in Argentina.
“The Brazilian Army celebrates the opportunity to, once again, physically meet again, which was not possible in the last cycle, given the restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gomes said. “In this sense, this high-level debate forum will allow the exchange of ideas and experiences. We will increase cooperation and integration between the armies, contributing to the security and development of the Western Hemisphere.”
The CAA is an international military organization made up and led by armies from the North and South American continents. The organization conducts a two-year cycle of specialized conferences and exercises hosted by different member armies which culminates in a preparatory conference that reviews the accomplishments of the previous two-year cycle and approves the agenda for the forthcoming CAA Commanders’ Conference.
Since 1961, the CAA has provided a venue for the U.S. Army Chief of Staff to engage in multilateral and bilateral dialogue with his counterparts from Latin and South American and Caribbean partners and allied nations. U.S. Army South is the Army’s action agent and CAA liaison officer responsible for all conference coordination with the host army.
Maj. Gen. William Thigpen, Army South commanding general, served as the U.S. Army’s senior representative during the CAA; and emphasized the event was important in maintaining the many military-to-military relationships and strengthening cohesion, while discussing ways to build better armies for the future.
“The U.S. Army is simultaneously looking for new opportunities to share lessons learned with our partners and increase interoperability internally, jointly and multi-nationally,” Thigpen said. “The goal is for units at each echelon to have the ability to operate together as a combined arms team, capable of integrated operations across all domains.”
During the event, Thigpen conducted bilateral meetings with several nations to address shared goals, training opportunities and ways to strengthen the integration and collaboration to confront regional challenges.
“You’ve always been our strategic ally to help us improve capabilities, especially through training, exchanges and equipment,” said Maj. Gen. Luis Enrique Burbano, Ecuadorian Army commander, during a key leader engagement with Thigpen.
As a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, Kentrucky, Dominican Republic Army Commanding General, Gen. Julio Ernesto Florian Perez, viewed the bilateral discussion as an opportunity to send more of his army’s soldiers to U.S. military schools and enhance their capabilities.
“I spent several years in the U.S. during my military service, and I believe in the methodology taught in U.S. Army institutions,” Perez said. “I look forward to working with the U.S. Army, especially in training and education.”
Army South will be hosting the Specialized Conference on Interoperability and Strategic Planning in July at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Thigpen expects the event to improve interoperability through three dimensions: technical, procedural and human.
“The most important of these is the human dimension,” he said. “The human dimension includes relationships, such as those that we are developing here at this conference, and those that are strengthened over time.”
The planning, coordination and execution of the CAA proved to be a success according to Maj. Christopher Feliciano, U.S. Army CAA liaison officer, who viewed the importance of in-person over virtual relationship building to better Army South’s ability to strengthen bonds in the Western Hemisphere.
“My bigger focus is practicing the human dimension with other CAA liaisons, which is more an art than a science,” Feliciano said. “Army South’s role as the executive agent of this Army Chief of Staff-level program is a reflection of the entrusted expertise and partnerships we’ve grown with other CAA members.”
The CAA coincided with the 374th birthday of the Brazilian Army, with senior member Army leaders, including Thigpen, receiving the Brazilian Order of Military Merit — the highest honorary distinction of the Brazilian Army.