FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- A group of approximately 30 individuals comprised of members of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and cadets from the Reserve Officers' Training Corps from St. Mary's University's Rattler Battalion visited U.S. Army South's headquarters building Aug. 14 to familiarize themselves with the command and its programs.

Visitors were greeted by Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, the Army South deputy commanding general, who led a command brief that explained the history, mission and accomplishments of Army South. During the presentation,

Salinas explained to the group how Army South's programs and initiatives enhance theater security and stability throughout the Western Hemisphere.

After receiving the brief, the group toured the Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX 2012 Coalition Forces Land Component Command exercise headquarters here. PANAMAX is an annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, multinational exercise series that is focused on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal. Personnel from 17 nations, including the United States, participate in simulated training scenarios from various U.S. locations.

The group's tour of the CFLCC gave them a chance to see the extent of Army South's efforts at building partner nation capacity through professional exchanges and a chance to work side-by-side with other nations' armies. This year, for the second straight year, Colombian officers were in charge of the CFLCC.

For many of the group's visitors, the visit was an opportunity to learn the programs and policies behind the Army's initiatives within the Western Hemisphere.

"I've heard about Army South, but my experience prior to today had been quite limited," said Joseph Carrizales, a San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board member and sales and service manager for Wells Fargo. "I learned a lot today. Far too many people do not understand what the command does. To be able to take what I've learned today and pass it along to others how great Army South is doing is going to be a true challenge to myself."

While Carrizales came into the visit with limited exposure to Army South's mission and programs, one other visitor had years of experience dealing with the command.
Ambassador James F. Creagan, the director of the Center for International Studies, ambassador in residence and the current holder of the Amy Freeman Lee Chair of Humanities at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, formerly held numerous ambassador positions in Latin America to include a position as the U.S. ambassador to Honduras. It was in Honduras where Creagan was able to utilize Army South's 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo in Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras.

Creagan's experience in the region and with Army South enabled him to serve as a testimonial to the command's efforts and effectiveness in the region.

"I think today's visit was excellent," said Creagan. "People will hear about PANAMAX, but to be able to experience it in this way and to see the Colombian general running the exercise was great. It's very important for this group to be able to learn in this setting."

After receiving a brief and tour of the CFLCC by Colombian Maj. Gen. Pedro Leon Soto Suarez, the Colombian army inspector general and PANAMAX CFLCC commander, the group departed with a new understanding of how a local command, with its headquarters in San Antonio, can drastically improve international relations throughout the entire Western Hemisphere.

"It's inspiring to see what our military does," said Carrizales. "It's really an overwhelming experience to see how well our military works with so many foreign countries for the same mission in protecting our environment and countries. This is something we need to do more of."