BOGOTA, Colombia -- United States Army South and the Colombian army concluded their third annual bilateral staff talks here March 22 and agreed to conduct 19 activities over approximately the next 12 months.

Army South, as the U.S. Army's executive agent, conducts the bilateral talks with Colombia annually as a strategic forum to guide the armies' interaction for the upcoming year. The agreed-to activities for 2012 include exchanges on humanitarian and disaster relief operations, and Colombian army participation in U.S. Southern Command sponsored exercises. Some activities may extend into 2013.

"I think we have developed a robust plan for engagement and training opportunities with the Colombian army for the next year or so," said Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, commanding general of Army South and head of the U.S. delegation. "We are exploiting the expertise and capacity of both armies and I know we will both benefit from working together through the agreed to activities."

Through the staff talks the U.S. and Colombian armies formalize their cooperation and relationship ensuring that both grow and endure.

"This third bilateral meeting was very important," said Maj. Gen. Manuel Guzman, Colombian army deputy commander and chief of staff. "Everyday our army becomes more professional and we have important work to do in 2012 such as building four joint task forces and revising our plans."

According to Guzman, the training and engagement opportunities agreed to in the talks will help the Colombian army to address current challenges as well as reach future goals. He credits the Colombian army's current high level of professionalism, in part, to the years of training and advice from the U.S. Army.

The relationship between the armies is more than just a professional military one, said Guzman. It is a relationship between friends and colleagues.

"We are stronger because of that (relationship)," Guzman said.

Prior to the final meeting in Bogota, working groups with representatives from both armies developed proposed activities that were then approved during this week's talks.

"Our working groups met in person and through VTC before this executive meeting so that we could present a validated list of activities to the key leaders of the armies," said Col. Jim K. Rose, Army South security cooperation division chief. "Working with our Colombian army counterparts has been outstanding throughout the whole process. Because we have such a strong and close relationship, we work very well together."

In addition to finalizing the agreed to activities for 2012, various subject matter experts presented briefings on subjects of interest to both delegations. The U.S. provided briefings on operational law, countering improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and development of the non-commissioned officer corps in the U.S. Army.

The Colombian army briefed on the army's operational plan for the next 24-48 months, army modernization and transformation, and the role and function of the army's command sergeant major.

This is the third round of staff talks conducted by Army South with the Colombian army. On behalf of the U.S. Army, Army South also conducts staff talks with three other countries in the region: El Salvador, Chile and Brazil. These staff talks were agreed to by the four countries through the diplomatic process and serve to enhance regional stability and security.