By Lt. Col. Antwan C. Williams, U.S. Army South Public AffairsDecember 12, 2012
MEXICO CITY (December 12, 2012) -- When armies support government and non-government organizations during peacekeeping or disaster relief operations there are variety of laws, restrictions and policies that must be understood and followed by the military to ensure the successful outcome of these types of missions.
Wednesday, during the Conference of American Armies Extraordinary Commanders' Meeting, taking place in Mexico City Dec. 10-13, the army chiefs in attendance received a briefing on the outcome of a CAA Legal Conference that took place earlier this year in San Antonio.
The CAA, made up of 20 member armies, five observer armies and two international military organizations from the Caribbean, Central, North and South American countries agreed in October 2011 in Lima, Peru during their last commanders' gathering to conduct a specialized legal conference in 2012.
The legal conference took place July 16-19 in San Antonio and was hosted by U.S. Army South and led by the commadner of the U.S. Army Legal Services Agencies annd former Commandant and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School, Brig. Gen. Thomas E. Ayres.
"The legal conference was the first time U.S. Army South hosted a CAA event of that magnitude and it involved more than 22 military legal practitioners from the CAA partner armies," said Enrique Labrador, U.S. Army's CAA liaison officer.
During the legal conference in July the attendees discussed operational law lessons learned from recent PKO and DRO missions and agreed to establish a joint legal repository of member states' laws, as well as international laws that pertain to these types of operations.
On Wednesday at the Extraordinary Commanders' Meeting and the 30th cycle of the gathering of the military leaders in Mexico City, Lt. Col. Daniel P. Saumur, U.S. Army South's staff judge advocate briefed the army chiefs and representatives on the outcomes, recommendations and a new legal database, which is housed on the CAA's website.
"This new legal database will share information and help member armies understand the legal framework other partner nations work under during a peacekeeping operation or disaster relief operation," said Saumur. "It also supports the CAA's aim to increase cooperation, interoperability and integration between armies and it meets U.S. 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 and participates in peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises with several CAA member states each year. In addition, some partner nations such as Brazil have extensive experience in conducting PKO and DRO missions.
Brazilian Col. Altair Jose Poslin, a representative who attended the CAA Legal Conference in July and who also commanded a Brazilian army battalion during a peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operation in Haiti in 2010, said at the conclusion of the legal conference in July that the engagement in San Antonio was an opportunity for each country to provide valuable input to their own countries' laws and to international laws when conducting these types of operations.
"If we understand each other's legal regulations and we know how each other operate then this makes it easier to focus on the mission objective," said Poslin.
Saumur briefed a prototype of the legal database on the CAA's website, which eventually will house many of the participating countries' laws and regulations pertaining to PKO and DRO missions.
"When fully operational the database will allow CAA members to research partner nations' constitution, laws, policy and regulation, as well as lessons learned from peacekeeping operations and disaster relief operations," said Saumur. "The database will also contain international laws and treaties pertaining to PKO and DRO and can also be expanded, if the members agree, to include areas such as emerging threats."
The U.S. Army South commanding general, Maj. Gen. Frederick S. Rudesheim, who is leading the U.S. delegation at the Extraordinary Commanders' Meeting this week on behalf of the Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, said the legal specialized conference was a success and this database and the attendees work will go a long way in improving interoperability.