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Army South, Central American army partners enhance regional capabilities

By Leanne Thomas | U.S. Army South Public Affairs | Sept. 2, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —

Key leaders from U.S. Army South and partner nation armies from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras took part in the Central America Working Group, or CENTAM Working Group, held virtually Aug. 24-28.

The CENTAM Working Group provides Army South and partners with a forum to enhance professional relationships and improve land forces capabilities. Maintaining strong relationships is a cornerstone of Army South’s engagements.

“This will be the first time that we’ve developed a program similar to Army Staff Talks but with several countries,” said Marco V. Rosito, Central America and Caribbean desk officer, Army South Security Cooperation Directorate. “The big success is primarily our ability to meet together to work, coordinate and synchronize our activities, objectives and initiatives between the countries. Some of them bilaterally between us and a partner nation and others bilaterally between two partner nations.”

During the multi-day forum, each country provided an overview of their army, security challenges and opportunities, as well as identified potential areas for regional collaboration over the next five years.

Each of the participating staff representatives emphasized the significance of the working group and the importance of working together to increase capabilities.

“I am very thankful to all of you for exchanging ideas, words and concerns in an effort to try to improve our countries. It is very important that we must consider our countries, not as one individual country, but rather as one nation, a nation that is called, ‘America,’” said Honduran Army Col. José Antonio Reyes.

Guatemalan Army Col. Aramis Rosalío Fuentes Orozco, head of the Guatemalan delegation, echoed the same sentiment on the importance of the event.

“These last three days have been very productive because we have been able to express ourselves and touch on different topics, different problems that we share in common,” Orozco said. “I repeat the words of my brothers from Honduras where they have already indicated that we want to come together because these problems do not belong to one, they belong to all of us. And if we are united we will be able to complete our objective, which is to prevent the illicit trafficking that is going through Central America.”

Speaking on behalf of his nation’s army, Col. Héctor Samuel Reyes Martínez, Salvadoran Army operations director and head of the Salvadoran delegation, thanked the Army South planners for organizing the event.

“We are grateful to have been a part of this very valuable opportunity to exchange our knowledge with all of our sister countries as we continue to combat criminal organizations and entities. At the same time, we want to thank the U.S. Army for providing this wonderful tool to hold these meetings,” Martinez said.

At the conclusion of the event, U.S. Army Col. Jeffrey Lopez, Army South Security Cooperation Division director, praised the participants and thanked them for agreeing to come together to defend and deter threats within the Western Hemisphere.

“I couldn’t agree more with every single one of your comments. It is important what you stated, ‘one America, one team.’ Because everything that we do as a military is for the defense of our nation,” Lopez said. “So we look at our relationships with our Central American neighbors as a way to help fortify our defense, to defend our homeland. As you said, we’re one America, and it’s extremely important that we have strong relationships within our own neighborhood.”

Following the CENTAM Working Group, the staff members will continue developing the areas identified for cooperation through February 2021 when senior leaders representing all four Armies will come together in El Salvador to validate and confirm activities over five years during the Meeting of Principals.

“This meeting is proof that even though we work separately, we can still come together to accomplish our mission and protect our countries,” Rosito said.