LIMA, Peru (Feb. 10, 2012) -- Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, U.S. Army South commander, visited with military partners in Peru, Feb. 7-10, gaining valuable insights into challenges facing the Peruvian military and strengthening military relationships between the United States and the South American country.

"The Peruvian military is a valued partner for us," Trombitas said. "During this visit, I was able to talk with key military leaders, gain increased understanding of their operations and identify areas where we can work together to increase the capacity of both of our armies."

Trombitas also met with U.S. Ambassador Rose Likins and Deputy Chief of Mission Mike Fitzpatrick, and received a modified country team brief that outlined U.S. interagency efforts to assist the Peruvian government in countering narcotics production and trafficking, and U.S. support in other areas of mutual concern.

The Senior Defense Official, Capt. John Ries and Military Advisory and Assistance Group Commander, Col. Carlos Berrios, also briefed Trombitas on military support and cooperation between the U.S. and Peruvian militaries.

Meetings with Peruvian officials included the Peruvian army commander, Gen. Victor Manual Ripalda, and commander of the Joint Forces Command, Gen. Luis Ricardo Howell, whose staff briefed Trombitas on military operations against the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) in the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers, or VRAE, and Upper Huallaga Valley. The Shining Path, considered by the U.S. to be a terrorist organization, has increased its links to narcotics trafficking which has brought additional security and stability challenges to the Peruvian government.

Trombitas got a firsthand look at operations in the VRAE on Feb. 8 when he toured the area and army operations there.

"The area is challenging for military operations because it is mountainous and the vegetation is quite thick," said Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Cervantes, Army South senior enlisted advisor who traveled with Trombitas. "I was impressed with the skill and professionalism of the Peruvian soldiers we met, especially considering the harsh environment they operate in."

The visit continued on Feb. 9 with presentations at the Comando de Educatión y Doctrina del -jercito (Army Training and Doctrine Command) and a tour of the Escuela Superior de Guerra del -jercito (Army War College) where Trombitas spoke to approximately 40 international students about the U.S. Army's strategy for the future.

The final stop was the Peruvian army's 1st Aviation Brigade where the brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Daniel Augusto Forno briefed Trombitas on the brigade's capabilities and provided a tour of its facilities and equipment.

"One of the areas that we have identified as an area in which we can assist the Peruvian army is aviation training," Trombitas said. "It was good for me to get on the ground and see their equipment and facilities and have a face-to-face discussion with the aviation brigade commander about how we can work together to build their aviation capacity."

At the request of the Peruvian army, Army South is spearheading an aviation seminar to be held in Peru in March to coordinate aviation training that will provide the Peruvian army with the techniques, tactics and procedures it needs to build its aviation capacity both operationally and logistically.

Exchanges such as the aviation seminar and visits to key leaders in Peru are just some of the ways Army South continues to enhance the army-to-army relationship with Peru and to share and promote professional military activities. Peru has also participated in U.S. Southern Command exercises such as PANAMAX and Fuerzas Alidas Humanitarias, and partnered with SOUTHCOM in support of more than 60 humanitarian assistance and disaster preparedness projects since 2009.

"The U.S. and Peru are developing a strong partnership and cooperation on security matters," Trombitas said. "We will continue to build on that relationship and learn valuable lessons from each other through exchanges, exercises and other training opportunities."