LIMA, Peru (Oct. 24, 2011) -- The Conference of American Armies, consisting of armies from Caribbean, Central, North and South American countries, kicked off Monday in Lima, Peru."This conference offers an opportunity for commanders to get to know each other and to exchange experiences," said Gen. Victor Manual Ripalda Ganoza, commander of the Peruvian army and president of the Permanent Executive Secretariat of the Conference of American Armies.The Conference of American Armies was founded in 1960 in order to provide a venue for the U.S. chief of staff of the Army to engage in multilateral and bilateral dialogue with his counterparts in the western hemisphere. The conference has grown from a small multilateral discussion to a week-long conference involving 17 member armies to include, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, and Uruguay.Through an open and fresh exchange of ideas, this conference fosters relationships between South and North American ground force commanders. These talks allow leaders to discuss lessons learned and apply those lessons to individual and shared doctrine, training and force structure."It's important to share, to unify, to become a fraternity of sorts, amongst the armies of the Americas," said Ripalda. "With the armies unified, it helps to make the Americas stronger."During the Peruvian-hosted conference, multiple themes will be discussed, ranging from disaster relief to peacekeeping operations. Each country will bring experiences and lessons learned to the conference and share them with their counterparts and, in turn, take back new knowledge to their armies."Peru would like to share the exchange of ideas, technology and the will to improve ourselves in the operation of our army," said Peruvian Col. Eduardo Quelopana, executive secretary to the Permanent Executive Secretariat. "This will hopefully contribute to the unity of a common effort amongst the American armies and the army commanders of the western hemisphere.""I feel like a major player who will share his experiences and in effect contribute to this institution, specifically in the knowledge of organizing ground forces, deploying forces and how to integrate with ministries and other agencies," said Gen. Luis Patricio Cardenas Proano, the army commander of the Ecuadorian army. "However, Ecuador is also interested in enriching itself from the experiences that many of the other countries have had in certain events, in particular, the natural disasters faced by Chile and Brazil."Not only does this conference provide the U.S. Army with continual direct engagement with senior South and Latin American military leadership, it also ensures a current understanding of partner nation views and the issues facing land force commanders."The conference will offer the opportunity for us to interact with our allies and focus on such areas as humanitarian relief, natural disasters and counter illicit activities," said Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, commanding general for U.S. Army South. "For example, the devastating earthquake in Haiti -- we worked with our partner armies and seamlessly provided support. Through the continuous building of our relationships with our partners, though conferences and exercises, we were able to come together with common tactics, techniques and procedures."Besides offering an opportunity to enrich the armies of the Americas, it also provides the officers in attendance the chance to build personally."The Conference of American Armies has allowed me to realize myself as a military officer of the Peruvian army and this region," said Quelopana. "As a member of the host army I feel extremely proud of the work we have accomplished on behalf of the armies of the Americas. The past two years has made me not only a more knowledgeable officer, but a friend of the Americas.""I have had the opportunity to work in this part of the world since 1984," said Trombitas. "Many of the relationships were developed when I was a captain. It is great to see my peers from other countries become general officers. It stresses the importance of maintaining strong, working and personal relationships with our allies and underscores the capability we have to work together and build upon that mutual respect."