JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (March 21, 2013) -- In order to meet today's challenges and tomorrow's uncertain conflicts, the U.S. Army must continue to shape the environment by working closely with and engaging our partners while building partner nation capacity.With this in mind, U.S. Army South, the Army service component command of U.S. Southern Command, or SOUTHCOM, engaged with its Colombian army counterparts during bilateral staff talks here, March 18-21."These staff talks allow us to openly discuss how we can better partner with these countries," said Maj. Gen. Frederick S. Rudesheim, the Army South commanding general.The U.S. Army Staff Talks Program serves as a bilateral forum for strategic-level discussions between respective armies. The program seeks to promote bilateral efforts in order to develop professional partnerships and increase interaction between partner nation armies.Army South, as the Army's executive agent, has engaged in annual bilateral staff talks with Colombia, Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador for many years. Rudesheim said strengthening relationships with partner nation armies through these talks has lasting effects on the peace and stability of the region."The staff talks are a continuous process where we are able to coordinate and plan engagements to strengthen capabilities and build capacity," said Rudesheim. "We discuss ways in which we can enhance our security cooperation, as well as contribute to regional stability and constructive relations."In turn, Rudesheim said the staff talks program assists in promoting peace and security in Central and South America, and the Caribbean, through mutual understanding, partnership, and cooperation."By extension, it's not just the countries with whom we have staff talks, but those other countries with whom they have relations that we are able to reach out to. The staff talks allow us to be a better partner across the region."According to Rudesheim, the staff talks have been instrumental in enhancing the interoperability and cooperation between the armies. The U.S. Army's efforts are integrated with the SOUTHCOM commander's theater campaign plan and linked to mission strategic resources."Any discussions we have within the region allow us, the United States Army, to offer assistance to facilitate the improvement, modernization and professionalization of the armies of the region," said Rudesheim. "They are all very good armies, each in their own right, and our efforts are really to see what we can do to assist them with what they want, not what we want, but what they want."The army-to-army relationship between Colombia and the U.S. is strong as evidenced during other exercises this past year when the two armies worked together during Beyond the Horizon 2012 in Guatemala and Honduras and in Peace Keeping Operations -- Americas in Santiago, Chile, as well as PANAMAX 2012 in San Antonio.Maj. Gen. Manuel G. Guzman, deputy commander of the Colombian army, said the partnership has strengthened to the point of a lasting friendship between the two armies."Colombia is a principal ally to the U.S.," said Guzman. "The friendship and union that our two countries have had for many years was evident during these talks and we will certainly maintain them."Rudesheim views the Colombian army as an important strategic ally and a crucial part of security and stability in the region. He credited their strong partnership for the success of the most recent staff talks."We have a great relationship with Colombia and it's like being with old friends where we can discuss things openly," said Rudesheim. "The close relationship we have with the Colombian army is not episodic, it's constant. That helped us [this week] get through some of the difficult, significantly challenging issues in the discussions."