FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Nov. 18, 2011) -- The Conference of American Armies' biennial commanders' conference, comprised of armies from the Caribbean, Central, North and South American countries, concluded in Lima, Peru on Oct. 28 and culminated with new milestones for the organization.

For the past 50 years, commanders from the participating armies have met every two years to discuss the previous conference's objectives and goals and to vote on themes for future engagements. The meeting is informally called the CAA.

In addition to the commanders meeting every two years, members of participating armies host various specialized conferences and exercises during the intervening period focusing on themes decided on by the member nations' army service chiefs.

The 20 member armies, to include Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela, along with five observer armies from Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Suriname and two international military organizations, Conference of Central American Armed Forces and Inter-American Defense Board, meet ever year to discuss challenges of mutual concern through multilateral and bilateral discussions.

This year, Ecuador proposed that the commanders meet every year instead of every two years. According to the Ecuadorian army commander, Gen. Luis Patricio Cárdenas Proaño, meeting every two years was not enough to accomplish the goals of the conference.

"Mexico has agreed to host an extra commanders' conference in November 2012," said Col. James Rose, chief of the security cooperation division for U.S. Army South. "Normally the commanders meet every two years; however, the commanders have a desire to stay engaged and this additional meeting will enable the commanders to remain connected and discuss themes affecting security in the hemisphere."

"This is a huge accomplishment," said Enrique Labrador, U.S. Army representative and liaison officer of the CAA. "Agreeing to meet next year indicates that the highest levels of each of the countries' army leadership want the CAA program to continue to be a forum that produces effective and efficient measures to contribute to peacekeeping operations and disaster relief operations in the region."

This conference offers an opportunity for the U.S. Army to have continual direct strategic engagement with Western Hemisphere senior army leaders. In doing so, it enables the land force commanders of the hemisphere to gain a current understanding of partner nation views and the issues facing the region as a whole.

"The conference has a mandatory theme every two-year cycle," said Labrador. "However, this commanders' conference has expanded the scope to look at emerging threats, which means drugs, arms and human trafficking challenges that affect the entire hemisphere."

During the commanders' conference, the armies in attendance agreed to add two more specialized engagement opportunities under the umbrella of the CAA. These two activities include a legal conference and an emerging threats conference.

"The U.S. Army has agreed to host the legal conference in August 2012 in order to develop the legal framework in which CAA, as the military organization, can deal with emergent threats," said Labrador. "Following the legal conference, Colombia has agreed to host the emergent threats conference in October 2012 focusing on countering transnational organized crime and developing practical initiatives that can lead to dissuading or disrupting these criminal organizations."

Along with these two new initiatives, member armies will also participate in three other specialized conferences: science and technology, peace keeping operations and disaster relief. All of these new engagements will culminate with the extra commanders' conference in November 2012 in Mexico.

"Mexico has increased interest in CAA and in addition to hosting their first commanders' conference next year, they have volunteered to host a disaster response exercise in November," said Labrador.

"The CAA is the principal platform for the U.S Army Chief of Staff and other senior army commanders to engage and foster relationships and maintain dialogue with partner army ground force leaders," said Rose. "We are one of 20 equal partners in this organization. Every country gets a vote and we all contribute to the overall security of the region."

Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, commanding general for U.S. Army South, represented the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Chief of Staff during the commanders' conference.

"CAA offers the opportunity for us to interact with our allies and focus on areas such as humanitarian relief, natural disasters and countering illicit activities," said Trombitas.