By Robert Ramon, ARSOUTHOctober 23, 2012
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (Oct. 23, 2012) -- On his first trip to the Central American region since taking command, U.S. Army South's commanding general traveled to Honduras, Oct. 3-5, to conduct an initial visit with the U.S. ambassador, meet with Army South Soldiers and to have discussions with key leaders in the Honduran military.
The visit coincided with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta's visit to South America and is in line with what Panetta stated is the U.S. goal for the Western Hemisphere -- to help nations in the region develop military capabilities and provide for their security.
Maj. Gen. Frederick Rudesheim, the Army South commanding general, met with U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske.
"I absolutely needed to visit the ambassador so I could understand and have a better appreciation for the support we provide to her country team and to our partners in Honduras," said Rudesheim.
Rudesheim also met with Soldiers from Army South's 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment, and other leaders assigned to Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras that support Joint Task Force-Bravo.
"I got a chance to meet those Soldiers that wear the Army South patch," said Rudesheim.
The 1-228th not only supports JTF-Bravo, but as the only forward-deployed U.S. aviation unit in the region, it has the mission to execute aviation operations to facilitate U.S. Southern Command's strategy of engagement and security in the region.
JTF-Bravo is a task force under SOUTHCOM that operates a forward air base in Honduras and organizes multilateral exercises and operations, in cooperation with the host nation and regional partner nations in counter narcoterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and building and sustaining partner capacities to promote regional cooperation and security in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
In the last two years 1-228th, working with JTF-Bravo, supported 18 medical readiness exercises that treated more than 47,000 patients throughout Central America. In addition, 1-228th provided support to other aviation missions, which included counter illicit trafficking operations, personnel recovery, humanitarian disaster responses and other operations for U.S. and partner nation personnel in Honduras and the surrounding area.
Rudesheim spent the remainder of his trip building relationships with key Honduran army leaders including the Honduran minister of defense, the chief of defense forces and the army commander.
"Central America is an important region so it's vital that Major General Rudesheim develop a personal relationship with partner nation army leaders," said Maj. Jeff Lopez, Army South Central American desk officer. "This ensures that we maintain a foundation of trust and confidence."
Rudesheim and the Honduran army leaders discussed a range of important topics including setting the conditions for future engagements, said Lopez. This is a conversation they will likely continue during the upcoming Central American Regional Leaders Conference to be hosted in January at Army South's headquarters in San Antonio where army commanders from at least seven Central American nations plan to attend.
Lopez, who sat in on the meetings, said Rudesheim built an immediate bond with the Honduran army leaders. He credited this in part to the fact that Rudesheim was born to American parents in Panama and was raised there until he left at the age of 18 to attend college at the University of Texas at Austin.
"He built a bond with our Honduran army partners right away," said Lopez. "Major General Rudesheim has a solid grasp of the Latino culture and is excellent with the Spanish language."
Rudesheim said he plans to continue to cultivate Army South's relationship with partner nation armies during his tenure as commanding general.
"I had very fruitful talks with senior leaders of the Honduran army and gained a good initial understanding of the assistance we provide and our partnership with them," said Rudesheim.