FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Aug. 10, 2011 -- As part of an Army program that dates back more than half a century -- from 1946 to present -- seven senior Mexican Army officers, chosen by the Mexican equivalent of the Secretary of Defense, spent a week at U.S. Army North to continue to build cooperation and foster closer relationships between the two militaries.
The officers, some who brought their spouses, traveled to Fort Sam Houston June 13-17 to learn more about U.S. Army missions, activities and responsibilities. During their visit, along with their Army North hosts, they visited military, government and civilian organizations on Fort Sam Houston, as well as Fort Hood, and Camp Swift as well as Austin and College Station, all in Texas.
Established after World War II, the Fifth Army Inter-American Relations Program, or FIARP, has been an annual, week-long program that hosts visiting Mexican senior leaders to Army installations in the United States. The intent of the program is to build rapport, understanding and confidence with senior Mexican officers and their spouses while sharing information about the U.S. Army and the American way of life in a professional, social and cultural context.
“It’s a historical program that fosters cooperation and relationship-building, and it promotes military exchange and allows us to share our lessons learned,” said Maj. Gen. Perry Wiggins, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army North.
On Fort Sam Houston, the group of Mexican officers, which included a major general, three brigadier generals and three colonels, visited the Center for the Intrepid, a rehabilitation facility to treat amputees and burn victims from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Warrior and Family Support Center and toured the historic Quadrangle June 14. The officers were briefed on Army North’s role in homeland defense, civil support and theater security cooperation.
Additionally, they were afforded the opportunity to observe the unit’s specialized equipment and emergency response vehicles.
“Defense support of civil authorities is a core competency of the Mexican Army, and Army North’s experience in supporting civil authorities during disasters gives us common ground for sharing experiences and cooperating against the forces of nature that threaten both of our peoples,” said Leo Muniz, political and military advisor, Army North.
The next day, Army North leaders escorted the delegation to Fort Hood. The delegates met Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell Jr., the commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, and were briefed on civil-military techniques and procedures. Afterward, they enjoyed lunch at the base’s Culinary Arts Center before boarding Black Hawk and Huey helicopters to watch Soldiers from the 104th Engineer Company, 62nd Engineer Battalion, and conduct field training at one of Fort Hood’s training areas.
After watching the exercise at an Iraqi-style compound, the delegates tested their skills with Army weapons at the Engagement Skills Trainer, where they fired at virtual targets and received feedback on their aim and group techniques. The EST provides realistic marksmanship and combat scenario training for 12 of the most common small-arms and crew-served weapons and individual anti-tank weapons in the Army inventory.
It includes multi-lane individual and collective gunnery training for static, dismounted individual, squad, team and element levels.
The next day, Army North leaders escorted the delegation to Camp Swift, a Texas Army National Guard training site, where they watched counter improvised explosive device training. After leaving Camp Swift, the delegation met up with their spouses in Austin for a tour of the capitol and a meeting with Esperanza “Hope” Andrade, Texas secretary of state.
The delegation flew to College Station June 17 to visit Texas Task Force 1, the state’s urban search and rescue response team, and to meet with leaders from the Texas Engineering Extension Service, which oversees the task force and the TEEX Disaster City training facility. The delegation participated in a guided tour of the 52-acre “Disaster City” training site, complete with full-scale collapsible structures designed to simulate various levels of disaster and wreckage.
After the tour, the delegates toured the Texas A and M University campus before an early return to San Antonio to participate in the U.S. Army Ball, co-hosted by U.S. Army North, U.S. Army South and U.S. Installation Management Command.
All of the places were interesting, considering that they provided know-how that can be used in training and operations, said Mexican Army Maj. Gen. Jaime Lopez Reyes, leader of the Mexican delegation. He said the respect and admiration that American citizens have for servicemembers who have made the ultimate sacrifice during military operations is very meaningful for the delegation.
The program benefits both countries and is vitally important, said Leonardo Hernandez, Security Cooperation, Army North.
“FIARP provides us an opportunity to present U.S. military forces in a political and historical context to our Mexican counterparts,” said Hernandez. “We use FIARP to increase understanding of U.S. Army missions, activities and responsibilities. This program also allows the Mexican and U.S. militaries to further develop and maintain a cooperative relationship, which is built on mutual trust and confidence.”
The program, and other U.S.-Mexico ventures, has made progress in some of the areas of common concern for both countries, said Hernandez.
“We continue to work to make our efforts against common security challenges more effective while mutually respecting the sovereignty of our nations."
For next year’s FIARP Mexican leaders expressed an interest in seeing some of the Army’s noncommissioned officer schools and some enhanced counter improvised explosive device training.