By Lt. Col. Antwan C. Williams, U.S. Army South Public AffairsDecember 11, 2012
MEXICO CITY (December 11, 2012) - The Conference of American Armies, founded in 1960, opened Monday its 30th cycle of the gathering of chiefs of armies from the Caribbean, Central, North and South American countries in a military ceremony hosted by the Mexican army here Dec. 10.
Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, Mexican Secretary of National Defense and current President of the Permanent Executive Secretariat of the Conference of American Armies officially opened the special gathering called the Extraordinary Commanders' Meeting at the headquarters of the Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional in Mexico City.
"This special meeting is an opportunity for the army commanders to review the progress being made from CAA events that have taken place in the last year," said Enrique Labrador, U.S. Army's CAA liaison officer.
The U.S. Army South commanding general, Maj. Gen. Frederick S. Rudesheim, is leading the U.S. delegation at the Extraordinary Commanders' Meeting on behalf of the Chief of Staff of the Army and according to Labrador this meeting provides an opportunity for Rudesheim to meet and develop stronger relationships with partner nations army leaders in the region.
"The CAA provides a venue for the Army South commander to have continual direct engagement with military leaders to ensure an understanding of issues facing land forces with our partner nations in the region," said Labrador.
The CAA, comprised of 20 member armies, five observer armies and two international military organizations from the Caribbean, Central, North and South American nations, is the largest gathering of army chiefs in the region. CAA is a forum for chiefs of armies to come together and discuss issues of mutual interest in order to contribute to hemispheric security, protection against threats and to enhance interpersonal relationships.
The army chiefs normally meet every two years, but in its last meeting, in October 2011 in Lima Peru, the members decided not to wait until 2013, but to hold an Extraordinary Commanders' Meeting this year. The members plan to discuss a wide range of issues and to review recommendations that came out of a series of specialized conferences that took place in the last 12 months.
"The army chiefs will discuss findings from the communications, legal, science and technology, emerging threats and risk situations and disaster relief operations specialized conferences that took place in different countries over the last several months," said Col. James Rose, U.S. Army South, director of the security cooperation division.
With the Mexican army leading and hosting, army chiefs, commanders and representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Suriname, Uruguay, and the Inter-American Defense Board were present at the opening ceremony and will participate in this historic meeting.
During the meeting the CAA military leaders will conduct four plenary sessions and several bilateral engagements and discuss subjects from the last gathering. In the 29th CAA cycle commanders' conference the chiefs of the armies discussed security challenges, emerging threats and the rise of transnational criminal organizations.
"Army commanders clearly recognized the grave danger and negative impact emerging threats, of numerous forms, are causing to every partner nation in the Western Hemisphere," said Labrador. "During this meeting commanders, plan to discuss the role CAA armies can play, within their legal limitations, to deter emerging threats."
The CAA events allow army leaders from the Americas to come together examine lessons learned and discuss ideas that came out of the specialized conferences earlier in the year, such as a new legal database and geographical information sharing system.
"The chiefs will receive briefings on a geographical information system that every member can use that was discussed at the CAA Science and Technology Specialized Conference that took place in Peru in September," said Labrador.
In addition, the members will receive a brief from Lt. Col. Daniel P. Saumur, U.S. Army South's staff judge advocate, regarding a legal database that was developed as a result of the CAA Legal Specialized Conference that was hosted by U.S. Army South in July and took place in San Antonio, Texas.
"This new legal database will share information and help member armies understand the legal framework other partner nations work under during a peace keeping operation or disaster relief operation," said Saumur. "It also supports Army South and U.S. Southern Command's goal of building and sustaining partner nation capacity."
U.S. Army South is the Army Service Component Command for U.S. Southern Command.