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NEWS | May 29, 2024

U.S., Central American military leaders reaffirm their commitment to regional security, partnership

By Sgt. Maj. Tanya Lumbard U.S. Army South Public Affairs

U.S. and Central American military leaders gathered in El Salvador, May 21, to reaffirm their shared commitment to regional security and to renew partner-nation engagement and training opportunities for the upcoming years.

The multinational forum, hosted by U.S. Army South, served as the 19th edition of the U.S.-El Salvador army-to-army staff talks and the fifth Central American Working Group, which was designed to enhance interoperability amongst American, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran armies.

“This partnership matters,” said New Hampshire Adjutant Maj. Gen. David Mikolaities, principal U.S. Army leader at the conference whose state collaborates regularly with El Salvador as part of the U.S National Guard’s State Partnership Program. “Based on our shared values and our ideals, we all have a mutual interest of working together to establish a common operating picture so we can help solve the problems that our countries face together.”

Partnership echoed throughout the forum, which began as Maj. Michelle Sharp, Army South intelligence security cooperation chief, shared the successes of the annual CENTAM Regional Intelligence Working Group with Mikolaities, Salvadoran Army Col. Mario Figueroa, Guatemalan Naval Capt. Hector Ortiz, Honduran Army Col. Marco Lanza and their delegations. This working group, now on its third year, is a current agreed-to-action between U.S. Army South and Central American partners that focusses on regional security, intelligence issues, and solutions to common threats and challenges.

“This working group provides a venue for each nation’s intelligence professionals to create interoperable regional strategies and strengthen intelligence relationships through sharing and collaboration,” said Sharp, who added that the expanding Army South-led committee recently developed the first-of-its-kind Central American Regional Security and Intelligence Strategy. “The strengths of the partnerships that this committee builds have attracted new regional partners to join.”

Regional partnership is also annually displayed during CENTAM Guardian, a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored and Army South-supported multinational exercise whereby participating countries practice a combined response to simulated regional threats.

Maj. Michael Garza, Army South G7 Training Readiness Exercise and Army Reserve Engagement Cell planner, discussed CENTAM Guardian’s successes and lessons learned during the forum, sparking collaborative dialogue with Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan counterparts about ways to improve forthcoming iterations.

“The multinational working group enhances future CENTAM Guardian exercises by developing real world contingencies in a rapidly changing environment,” Garza said. “Continuous collaboration and information sharing will build upon previous exercises.

We are confident allied and partner nations will continue to develop effective training concepts to increase interoperability, functional capacities and capabilities to respond effectively to real world threats."

The multinational forum also enabled bilateral interactions and strategic-level discussions amongst the partner-nation armies, which culminated with the four principals signing a nonbinding memorandum of understanding and agreeing to multiple army-to-army exchanges, combined exercises and other professional military activities in the upcoming years.

Mikolaities said that overall, the event was instrumental to enhancing interoperability between all four partner nations and that there are common issues affecting the region that must be addressed as a team.

“We have a strong history of partnership and working together,” he said to his Central American counterparts. “Working together to understand the problems, having a common operating picture and domain awareness matters. Our future is stronger when we’re together.”