WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2011 -- Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal completed a week-long visit to Chile and Brazil, after visits with key government and partner-nation military leaders, and U.S. Department of State officials.

Westphal visited the region to gain a better understanding of the missions and operations and to ensure the U.S. Army is supporting efforts to promote security and stability in Chile and Brazil.

"My main objective for the trip was to familiarize, and in some cases re-familiarize, myself with the security situation of each nation so that I could better advise the Secretary of the Army and use that information when considering Army support and resources for our activities in Central and South America," Westphal said. "I also wanted to understand the security priorities and concerns of each nation to ensure that our armies are working together for our mutual benefit in terms of security and stability operations."

Westphal was the senior U.S. official at Chile's Independence Day ceremonies and National Army Day ceremonies. The "Fiestas Patrias" commemorates the proclamation of the First Governing Body of 1810 and marking the beginning of the Chilean independence process. Sept. 19 is known as the "Day of the Glories of the (Chilean) Army" and is marked by a full pass and review of troops and civilian authorities.

"It was truly an honor and privilege for me to represent the United States at this very historic and important celebration of Chile's history. We recognize the remarkable strides Chile has made in building an open, inclusive and prosperous society and appreciate our strong partnership in confronting mutual challenges in the region," he said.

Following his visit to Chile, Westphal traveled to Brazil where he met with the Charge' d affaires, Todd Chapman, and the Chief of Staff of the Brazilian Army, Gen. Enzo Martins Peri. They discussed the close partnership and cooperation between the Brazilian and U.S. militaries and future opportunities for both nations to work together.

While in Brazil, Westphal visited key military commands in Brasilia, Rio De Janeiro and Manaus. Discussions centered on maintaining the army-to-army and service-to-service relationship that the U.S. and Brazil have developed over the years, as well as the Brazilian army's role during the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Westphal stressed the importance of maintaining relationships, expanding partnerships into areas of mutual interest and deepening U.S.-Brazil defense cooperation to effectively confront shared security challenges.

"I was very impressed with how well our military forces are working together with our partner nation forces," Westphal said. "In each country I visited, I saw how close cooperation and partnership can greatly assist our common goal to ensure stability and security in the region."

Westphal's visit to Chile and Brazil underscore the commitment of the United States to build and sustain critical partnerships in an important region of the world. Defense cooperation between the United States and Latin America sets an important example for the rest of the world, and reinforces that partnerships are critical as we engage in mutual cooperation to confront our common challenges.