Lieutenant General Francis J. Wiercinski, Commanding General of U.S. Army, Pacific (USARPAC) visited Lao P.D.R. on February 13, 2013, and met with senior officials from the Lao Ministry of Defense to discuss issues related to ongoing and future U.S -- Lao military cooperation.

Lt. Gen. Wiercinski is the highest ranking U.S. military officer to visit Laos since 2007, demonstrating the increasingly close bi-lateral relationship between the U.S. and Laos, as well as the U.S. government's commitment to greater engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

During his visit, Lt. Gen. Wiercinski met with Major General Chansamone Chanyalath, Vice-Minister of National Defense. During the meeting, both generals hailed the growth in ties between the U.S. and Lao militaries. U.S. Military cooperation with Laos has grown increasingly strong in recent years, with a focus on military education and training programs, de-mining, and humanitarian assistance activities. Over the past 15 years, the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) has contributed $9.4 million in funding for humanitarian assistance projects such as new schools and medical facilities in rural areas.

Other highlights of Lt. Gen. Wiercinski's visit included a tour of the Lao People's Army Museum, and a stop at the COPE Visitor's Center, to learn about programs that assist victims of unexploded ordnance.

Lt. Gen. Wiercinski was also the guest of honor at a special dinner hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Lao P.D.R. Karen Stewart.

As commander of USARPAC, Lt. Gen. Wiercinski leads all Army forces in the Asia-Pacific region, amounting to more than 70,000 full-time Soldiers and 11,400 civilians employed throughout the Pacific and 9,000 more in the National Guard and Army Reserve. The organization conducts more than 169 activities in 26 countries annually as well as 16 exercises with Asia-Pacific partners and allies.