FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Nov. 3, 2011 -- Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, U.S. Army South commander, and Maj. Gen. Alejandro Arancibia Ramirez, director of international relations and head of the Chilean delegation, signed a formal agreement that marked the end of the annual army-to-army bilateral staff talks between their countries' armies during a ceremony Nov. 2 at Army South headquarters here.

Army South, on behalf of the chief of staff of the Army, hosted the staff talks to develop and exercise a bilateral senior-level meeting framework between the two armies. This served to set conditions for the accomplishment of the objectives and end states of Army South and U.S. Southern Command. The signed agreement will help to guide U.S. and Chilean interactions during 2012.

"The staff talks with Chile are of great importance to us because Chile is one of our strongest allies in all of the Americas," said Trombitas. "These talks allow us to form a plan of interaction for the next year and manage the ways in which we operate together. Strong alliances and good allies are a key to anything we do, not only in this hemisphere, but globally."

This year's staff talks focused on two strategic themes governing the Army's role in humanitarian assistance and disaster response, as well as doctrine and operational capabilities development.

The staff talks are part of an on-going planning process that occurs throughout the year, and this week's event is the culmination of planning for 2012, according to Lt. Col. Christopher W. Muller, the Army section chief assigned to Chile. The planning process ensures that the Army's efforts are integrated with SOUTHCOM's theater campaign plan and linked to the mission strategic resource plan for the U.S. embassy in Chile.

One of the benefits to the staff talks process is the ability to share opinions and experiences in open dialogue.

"The staff talks provide an excellent opportunity to share experiences," said Arancibia. "This increases the capabilities of our armies."

"The staff talks are very important because they allow us to speak frankly about how we can improve our relationship," said Col. Luis Chamorro, Chilean foreign liaison officer to Army South.

Chile and the U.S. share many interests and security concerns. The staff talks provide a key forum for both armies to develop strategic objectives in order to maintain and advance the relationship between the partner nations. Through staff talks, each nation benefits from the professional exchanges leading to collaborative solutions for issues in the region.

This year's staff talks also focused on developing knowledge, capabilities and support for current and future peacekeeping operations within the region. Currently, Chile has 287 soldiers deployed to Haiti in support of peacekeeping operations.

In March 2010, Army South deployed to Haiti in support of Operation Unified Response, where the command had a chance to work side-by-side with the Chilean army and other partner nations providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

"As we found out in Haiti, when we face any mission that we are charged with, we need strong allies, and Chile is a strong ally," said Trombitas. "These staff talks help to strengthen our partnership."

The U.S. and Chile staff talks concluded with 10 Agreed to Actions, or ATAs, for the upcoming year and beyond. Some of these ATAs include the development of a bilateral simulation exercise, a platoon exchange between Chile and the Texas Military Forces, efforts to optimize the capacities of the Chilean army's engineers, and several subject matter expert exchanges. The Chilean army will also participate with Army South and partner nations in humanitarian and disaster relief exercises, as well as security and stability exercises. In addition, Chile will host the Peacekeeping Operations -- Americas 2012 exercise.

The U.S. Army has engaged in annual bilateral staff talks with the Chilean army for the past six years. The staff talks have been instrumental in enhancing the interoperability and cooperation between the two armies, which has contributed to increased stability in the region.

"The highlight of the staff talks is the ability of our Soldiers to interact with our allies throughout the region," said Trombitas. "We've conducted staff talks with Chile since 2006 and as such, we've formed a good relationship. It's always good to personally interact with our friends and allies to form stronger relationships."

In addition to Chile, Army South, on behalf of the chief of staff of the army, also conducts army-to-army staff talks with Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador.