JBSA-FORT SAM HOUSTON –
More than 40 members of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce received a firsthand glimpse at the inner workings of U.S. Army South during an Aug. 11 visit to its headquarters on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
The guests were greeted by Maj. Gen. Joseph P. DiSalvo, Army South's commanding general, who led a presentation that explained the history, mission and accomplishments of the command.
"(The citizens of San Antonio) are always looking to get educated on what happens here at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston," said chamber member Mike Rowland. "Everybody knows Army South is here, but not everyone really knows its mission."
DiSalvo explained to the group how Army South's programs and initiatives enhance theater security and stability throughout the Western Hemisphere as well as details on Army South's major exercises including Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX 2014, which was taking place that same day.
After a question-and-answer session with DiSalvo, the group toured the PANAMAX Coalition Forces Land Component Command exercise headquarters located on the south end of the post.
PANAMAX is an annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, multinational exercise series that is focused on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal. Personnel from 17 nations, including the United States, participated in the CFLCC portion of the exercise here from Aug. 7-15.
The group's tour of the CFLCC gave them a chance to see the extent of Army South's efforts at building partner nation capacity through professional exchanges and a chance to work side by side with other nations' armies. This year Brazil was in charge of the CFLCC.
"I don't think that our civilian population understands how well partner nations and Americans work together," said Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, Army South deputy commander and the deputy commander of the PANAMAX CFLCC. "These exercises serve as a great illustration of how different armies come together for a common cause under one coalition under great leadership."
Salinas said a prime example of great leadership is Brazilian Maj. Gen. Carlos Jorge, the PANAMAX CFLCC commander.
"In this case we have a Brazilian two-star general who brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge and helps us learn as American Soldiers," Salinas said.
The chamber members entered the CFLCC headquarters to find it was filled with U.S. and partner nation service members as they worked together in a realistic and vibrant operations center. Jorge greeted each member and led them to a conference area where he provided them with a presentation on the mission of the CFLCC.
"I think it's a great opportunity for them to see how well we all work together while preparing for this kind of mission," Jorge said. "Also, we serve the civilians of our countries so it's important for them to know how we are working and where their money is going."
Chamber members were given some time to work their way through the CFLCC headquarters, visiting with U.S. and partner nation participants who explained their individual roles for the exercise. Many of the visitors were impressed by the hands-on opportunity, according to Rowland.
"It's not the same old stuff," Rowland said. "Army South went above and beyond by taking us into the heart of the operation and being able to observe it while it was going on. It gave us an opportunity to see it live."
Rowland's fellow chamber member, Doug Dupre, reiterated what the visit meant to the chamber.
"It's an outstanding opportunity to see all of these partner nation armies working together," Dupre said. "The mission of Army South is to pull them together and have them all work under the same harness and it seems like it's working very well. Army South is a valuable member of the community."