FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (June 5, 2012) -- As part of an Army program that enters its 66th iteration since the 1940s, seven senior Mexican army general officers were hosted by U.S. Army North at the U.S. capital as part of continuing efforts to build cooperation and foster closer relationships between the two militaries.

The officers, along with their spouses, traveled to Washington, D.C., May 21-25, to learn more about U.S. Army missions, activities and responsibilities during the Fifth Army Inter-American Relations Program, or FIARP, visit.

"The program continues to provide us an avenue to further enhance the relations between the Mexican military and our own," said Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV, the commanding general of U.S. Army North and senior mission commander for Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis. "These are truly long-lasting ties that will continue to support our mutual goals and benefit each of our nations."

During their stay, along with their Army North hosts, Mexican army leaders visited military, government and civilian organizations as well as more aesthetic pursuits while touring the local monuments and historical sites.

The Mexican officers were briefed on Army North's role in homeland defense, civil support and theater security cooperation. They also were presented briefings by several important departments within the government, such as the Texas State senate office, the Office of the Secretary of the Army, and they also met the Chief of Staff and the Sergeant Major of the Army.

As is the case with Army North, defense support of civil authorities is one of the mainstays of the Mexican army. Army North's mission in supporting civil authorities during disasters is similar to the mission of the Mexican military in support of its government's efforts during such times. The similar mission sets provide the two an opportunity to share their "shared" experiences in mitigating natural threats that endanger people on either side of the border, said Leo Muniz, political and military advisor, Army North.

The program is beneficial for both countries and is important in that it provides an opportunity for the Mexican and U.S. militaries to further develop and maintain a cooperative relationship -- one that is built on mutual trust and confidence.

FIARP provides Army North personnel an opportunity to present U.S. military forces in a political and historical context to their Mexican counterparts and to increase their understanding of U.S. Army missions, activities and responsibilities.

The program, and other U.S.-Mexico ventures, has made progress in many areas of common concern and continues to be invaluable in helping to shape the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico far into the future.

The first full day included a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where the visiting officers and their spouses were able to see a unique wreath-laying ceremony in honor of the FIARP visit.

They also visited the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., witnessed the changing of the Sentinels, and concluded with a stop at the Eternal Flame.

The Capitol building, the National Museum of American History, the Washington National Cathedral, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Senate building, the White House and George Washington's estate at Mount Vernon were all on the agenda for the visiting delegation over the fully scheduled week.

Established after World War II, Army North's Fifth Army Inter-American Relations Program is an annual week-long program in which Army North personnel host the visiting Mexican senior leaders during their visit to the United States. The intent of the program is to build rapport, understanding and confidence with senior Mexican officers and their spouses while sharing information about the U.S. Army and the American way of life in a professional, social and cultural context.

Historically, FIARP has provided a solid foundation upon which to build and improve relations between the two militaries, said Maj. Gen. Perry Wiggins, commanding general, First Army Division West, Fort Hood, Texas. But, just as important, it has enabled the sharing of lessons learned and exchanging of military and civil knowledge at all levels.

Wiggins has extensive experience with FIARP after serving as Army North's deputy commanding before moving on to his current position.