FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- The conclusion in July of Beyond the Horizon 2012, a humanitarian and civic assistance exercise in Guatemala, marked a significant milestone in Guatemala and U.S. military forces relations as the two have increasingly in the last few years worked together in several joint exercises, subject matter expert exchanges and training events.

U.S. Army South, the Army component command for U.S. Southern Command, works with armies and military leaders throughout its area of responsibility in Central and South America and the Caribbean to strengthen relationships, support theater security cooperation and build partner nation capacity.

"Thanks to the relationships built and sustained with our Guatemalan partners through previous exercises and operations such as Peacekeeping Operations Americas and PANAMAX, we are able to build upon our training and interaction to enhance security and stability in the region," said Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, Army South commanding general.

The Guatemalan army is an active participant in the annual exercise PANAMAX, which focuses on working with Panama and more than 17 other partner nations, including the U.S. in providing security for the safe passage of ships and commerce through the Panama Canal and adjacent littoral waterways.

In addition, Guatemala participates in the humanitarian and peace exercises, Peace Keeping Operations-Americas and Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias. Guatemala is also an active participant in the Conference of American Armies events.

Leading up to BTH exercise, which took place in the Guatemalan towns of Coban and San Marcos from April to July of this year, U.S. Army South personnel conducted two logistics professional development exchanges and a civil-military relations subject matter expert exchange in Guatemala City.

The first logistics PDE in January focused on improving Guatemalan military forces supply and engineer operations. The second logistics PDE in February focused on improving and exchanging best practices ideas with Guatemalan forces in the areas of physical security, weapons maintenance, and vehicle and boat maintenance.

The civil-military relationship exercise, which took place in April focused on working with Guatemalan forces in improving their abilities to conduct civil affairs and humanitarian operations.

"By providing these additional skill sets the partner nation [Guatemala] is able not only to conduct required tasks within the Beyond the Horizon exercise, but also for their mission essential task list at their unit level," said Arsenio de la Cruz, a civilian employee of Army South's Operations Protectorate Directorate, who travelled to Guatemala to provide some of the training prior to BTH.

In cooperation with the government of Guatemala and working closely with their military forces, Army South along with personnel from all U.S. military services, conducted training while providing dental, medical and engineering support. Personnel participating in BTH completed various construction projects including building and renovating schools and clinics.

In addition, BTH personnel conducted several medical and dental readiness exercises where they treated thousands of Guatemalan citizens in rural communities.

"These projects and medical, dental and veterinary exercises have a significant impact on the people in these locations. In most cases they are receiving treatment and care that they would not otherwise have access to," said Maj. Jeffrey T. Lopez, Army South's Central America desk officer.

"Ideally these areas are selected based on the needs of the people. It also demonstrates to the people our resolve to maintaining a solid relationship with the Host Nation Military," said Lopez.

A sign of the strength of the U.S. and Guatemalan military forces relationship and partnership was evident when Deputy U.S. Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta S. Jacobson, spoke at the BTH closing ceremony on June 28.

Jacobson said efforts like BTH support the U.S. Department of State's Central America Regional Security Initiative. CARSI is part of a U.S. effort to work together with partner nations in Central America, through a whole of government concept approach, to find collaborative solutions to regional issues such as countering transnational criminal organizations and other emerging threats, while helping to improve the security, safety and health of the people in this region.

"Through efforts such as Beyond the Horizon, we were able to make the statement about the importance of regional efforts and that no country can do this alone," said Jacobson.