WASHINGTON, June 18, 2012 - Under Secretary of the Army Dr. Joseph W. Westphal recently participated in the 12th U.S. and Chile Defense Consultative Commission (DCC) in Santiago, Chile and visited with Chilean Army units throughout the country to expand relationships and increase security cooperation in the hemisphere.
Westphal participated in the bilateral talks as a member of a U.S. Department of Defense delegation that was headed by Honorable Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs, and included Honorable Frank Mora, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
The U.S. officials conducted candid and productive discussions with their Chilean defense department counterparts to address energy, the environment, hemispheric security, science and technology, educational opportunities, and interoperability issues.
"Our countries and our armies have a great relationship and through these interactions we continue to improve cooperation and strengthen cooperation," Westphal said during the talks. "We face mutual challenges and our collaboration is essential to forging strong partnerships and finding the best solutions for both of our Armies."
Westphal outlined his role as the Under Secretary of the Army and underscored the importance of building relationships as the U.S. and Chile face the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
During the three-day conference, the delegation met with Chilean Undersecretary of Defense Oscar Izurieta to discuss a range of issues related to the US-Chile bilateral relationship, including the upcoming Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas, the South American Defense Council, security in Central America, and Chile's forthcoming National Security and Defense Strategy.
"The Defense Consultative Commission is critical in advancing our bilateral relations with Chile and its success is testament to a partnership founded on mutual interests and values," Westphal said.
The U.S.-Chile DCC was established under agreements reached in 1996 for both countries to participate in a series of annual meetings to foster greater understanding and cooperation between the two nations' defense organizations.
In addition to attending the U.S.-Chile Defense Consultative Commission, Dr. Westphal visited with several Chilean Army units and underscored the longstanding partnership between the U.S. and Chile.
He observed firsthand the humanitarian demining operations being conducted by the Chilean government along the Chilean and Peruvian border near the city of Arica, Chile.
"This is a monumental and important undertaking for the country of Chile and I applaud their professionalism and expertise", Westphal said.
Chile, a former producer of landmines and cluster munitions, signed the international Ban on Landmines in 1997 and ratified the agreement in 2001. The landmines were laid during the Pinochet regime in the 1970s on Chile's borders with Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. Many of the mined areas have been cleared, but over 90% of the mines remain along Chile's border with Peru in Arica, according to Chilean officials.
During his visit to Arica, Dr. Westphal met with Soldiers assigned to the Chilean First Armored Brigade and spoke with the unit's leadership about mutual challenges and their ongoing transformation efforts. Chilean Soldiers assigned to the brigade provided Dr. Westphal with equipment demonstrations and shared insight about their capabilities and current mission priorities.
"I think it's very fruitful for us to be visited from authorities from the United States Army. We have a special relationship and I think that this is a way to keep that relationship sound. Sharing views allows us to learn and strengthen our relationship," said a Chilean Army operations officer assigned to the Chilean First Armored Brigade.
Prior to departing Chile, Dr. Westphal met with leadership and cadets at Chile's National Military Academy, "Liberator Bernardo O'Higgins" Military School. On the outskirts of Santiago, the academy houses 1,600 cadets, all aspiring to be commissioned officers in Chile's Ejercito, or army.
He received a detailed brief about the structure of the academy, discussed their very successful student exchange and cultural immersion programs with the United States Military Academy, and toured the academy's museum; interacting with over 300 cadets during tour.
"I'm very impressed with the capabilities and standards of this institution and pleased with the progressive exchange program they share with the United States Military Academy," Westphal said during his remarks to leaders and cadets. "Through these interactions we continue to improve the collaborative efforts that make both of our Armies more effective."
Westphal's visit to Chile was designed to reinforce partnership between the United States and Chile and highlight the shared commitment to addressing challenges and advancing peace and stability in the hemisphere.