MIAMI, FL - Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with more than 1,300 personnel from U.S. Southern Command today during a farewell visit to the command's headquarters here.

The chairman, a former commander of SOUTHCOM, addressed military and civilian personnel who serve at the unified command's headquarters, thanking them for their contributions to U.S. national security, and their efforts to enhance security and stability in the Western Hemisphere.

Pace, scheduled to retire Oct. 1, told attendees he purposely chose SOUTHCOM to be the last unified command he visited while on active duty commending the command for its role in promoting cooperation among defense and security forces in the region.

After addressing the audience and answering several of their questions, the chairman took time to personally thank and shake hands with each military member and civilian employee and present them with his military coin in recognition for their service to the nation.

"To be personally coined by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is a unique honor very few people get a chance to experience," said Adm. James Stavridis, Commander of U.S. Southern Command. "It is a gesture that will undoubtedly be remembered by the men and women who experienced it for many years."

Pace served as commander of SOUTHCOM from September 2000 through September 2001 and was instrumental in crafting the expansion of U.S. military support to Colombia after the Andean nation implemented Plan Colombia in an effort to bring an end to more than three decades of internal conflict and restore democratic governance nationwide.

Pace visited Colombia prior to arriving at SOUTHCOM, where he was honored by President Alvaro Uribe and senior military leaders with the Cross of Boyaca, the highest military award the country can bestow on a Colombian or foreign officer.

U.S. Southern Command is one of the nation's five geographically-focused unified commands with responsibility for U.S. military operations in 32 countries and 13 protectorates from the Caribbean, Central and South America.