HARTFORD, Conn. — Between August 6-10, 2022, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Francis Evon, the Connecticut adjutant general, and other officers of the Connecticut Army National Guard, visited Montevideo, Uruguay, to strengthen bonds with our partners in the Uruguayan Armed Forces.
Uruguay, renowned for upholding the values of democracy and peace in South America, on top of being one of the most prosperous countries in the region, has been partnered with Connecticut through the State Partnership Program since August of 2000. Additionally, Uruguay heavily supports United Nations peacekeeping operations, having participated in 23 peacekeeping missions since 1952, even being named the top peacekeeping contributor in Western Hemisphere in 2021. Currently, Uruguay's largest singular contribution to the United Nations is its support of over 900 peacekeepers to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as MONUSCO.
“One out of every 3,000 Uruguayans is on a U.N. peacekeeping mission at any given time,'' said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Juan Villarreal, the Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative Program Manager at the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay. “20 percent of the armed forces, and nearly all Army officers, have participated in at least one mission.”
The State Partnership Program, or SPP, administered by the National Guard Bureau and guided by the U.S. State Department, builds interoperability and cooperation between host nation countries and the United States through military-to-military engagements, such as joint training exercises, bilateral exchanges and key leader engagements. Each state’s National Guard is aligned with at least one partner nation. Currently, there are 85 partnerships between 93 partner nations.
Over the course of the past 22 years, Uruguay and Connecticut have trained together, most recently when members of the 192nd Engineer Battalion conducted counter improvised explosive device training in Montevideo alongside soldiers of the Uruguayan Army between July 17-20, 2022. Leaders of both the Connecticut National Guard and Armed Forces of Uruguay frequently visit each other to share experience and lessons learned through training and operations conducted by each force.
This trip marked the first time Evon has visited Uruguay since becoming the Adjutant General in July of 2018.
As part of the trip, Evon visited the Chief of Mission's Residence and met with Chargé d'Affaires Karl Rios, Deputy Chief of Mission Eric Geelan and Senior Defense Official of the Office of Defense Cooperation U.S. Air Force Col. Gary Symon. Following that visit, Evon visited the Estado Mayor De la Defensa, part of the Uruguayan Ministry of Defense, and numerous Uruguayan military installations including the Capt. Juan Manuel Boiso Lanza Air Base, Comando General de la Armada Nacional, Comando General del Ejército and the National Peace Operations Training School of Uruguay, also known as ENOPU, where Uruguayan service members go for pre-deployment training in participation of U.N. peacekeeping missions.
While visiting these sites, Evon met with senior officials of the Uruguayan Army, Air Force and Navy, to include Army commander Gen. Gerardo Fregossi, Air Force commander Gen. Luis De León, and Navy commander Adm. Jorge Wilson. Additionally, Evon also met with members of the Uruguayan Joint Staff to include Chief of the Joint Staff Gen. Rodolfo Pereyra and Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Luis Mangini.
Evon and his staff were briefed by their Uruguayan counterparts on the capabilities, equipment and missions of each respective organization and discussed ways to incorporate the Connecticut National Guard in future joint engagements. Evon also presented Defense Meritorious Service Medals to officers, from each Uruguayan service, that previously served as an attaché to the United States for providing expert insight and advancing issues of major importance to the United States and Uruguay, in addition to facilitating training and operations between the two nations.
Evon himself was presented with the medal of 18 May 1811, the second highest military award of the Uruguayan Army, by Army commander Gen. Gerardo Fregossi at the Comando General del Ejército on Aug. 9, 2022, in recognition of the dedicated support the Connecticut National Guard had provided Uruguay throughout the history of the partnership.
The trip concluded with a visit to the Legislative Palace of Uruguay, where Evon met and spoke with Uruguayan senators as well as Uruguayan Vice President Beatriz Argimón, discussing items of mutual defense interest and ways to collaborate in the future. Lastly, Evon attended a wreath laying ceremony at the Cementerio del Norte, to commemorate Uruguay’s fallen airmen. In attendance were all of the Uruguayan service chiefs as well as the Minister of Defense Javier García and the President of the Republic Luis Lacalle Pou.