Bogota, Colombia –
A delegation of U.S. Army South colonels and lieutenant
colonels representing 10 directorates within the organization traveled to
Bogota, Colombia, Sept. 21 to engage in the seventh-annual staff talks steering
The U.S. Army Staff Talks Program serves as a bilateral
forum for strategic-level discussions between respective armies. U.S. Army
South, on behalf of the Chief of Staff of the Army, engages in annual bilateral
staff talks with these countries to promote peace, security and stability in
Central and South America and the Caribbean through mutual understanding,
partnership and cooperation.
Essential to establishing lasting military-to-military
relationships, staff talks capture mutually agreed upon plans and objectives
derived from days-long conversations and engagement, between direct counterpart
action officers and decision makers from both armies’ Personnel (G-1),
Intelligence (G-2), Operations (G-3), Logistics (G-4), Plans (G-5), Civil
Affairs (G-9), Engineer and Medical Command sections.
This year, U.S. Army South also received support from the
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or WHINSEC, a Department
of Defense institute located at Fort Benning, Ga., responsible for providing
training to government personnel in US-allied Latin American nations.
Also in attendance this year was Alex Sonski, Colombian desk
officer for the Army’s operational International Affairs Division, who provided
valuable input along with Lt. Col. David King, South Carolina National Guard
State Partnership Program Director, strategic plans and policy for
This year’s staff talks kicked off with motivationally
directed guidance from Maj. Gen. Alberto Jose Mejia Ferrero, Colombian army
“We don’t want the U.S. to teach us how to crawl, but rather
develop plans to attack strategic issues,” Mejia said.
Mejia provided an inside look of his vision, on the future
of the Colombian army, mentioning during the opening ceremony, a forthcoming
complete revision of doctrine for the Colombian army.
The Columbian general stressed that with the support of the
international community the army will be able to sell its message, which he
said is to “protect the people of Colombia and win our nation’s wars.”
Mejia emphasized the strategic importance of the U.S.
“We need knowledge in order to produce change amidst the
tsunami of threats,” he said.
Each directorate focused their attempts in echo of these
sentiments and guidance from Mejia as well as the guidance from U.S. Army South
Commander Maj. Gen. K.K. Chinn.
“Moving the ball down the field and not reinventing the
wheel,” was the mantra as each directorate overcame communication boundaries
and devoted energy to developing strategic bilateral objectives and supporting
The Colombian lead for this year’s staff talks was Col.
Carlos Augusto Barbosa Fontecha, director of Organization Plans and
A few of the objectives on the Colombian agenda included:
the Colombian army becoming operationally and tactically interoperable with
North Atlantic Treaty Organization and United Nations forces; the ability for
the Colombian army to improve its logistical sustainment capabilities and
operations in transition and post conflict; the Colombian army’s ability to
implement changes to the doctrine of support and health services; and during
the process of transformation of their army, the ability to strengthen the
capabilities of action integral to the mission of engineers.
Establishing strategic tasks for eight objectives was the
initial goal going in to the talks, though flexibility and creativity were
essential in achieving a shared vision.
After eight consecutive hours of engaging his Colombian army
counterpart on the second day of talks, G-3 director Col. Lance Moore
concluded, “The Colombian army is a tremendously capable partner. It will take
continuous, focused efforts to help them achieve their transformational goals
as an army.”
Col. John Hale, G-5 director, echoed Moore’s assessment and
said he believes that in the past seven years the U.S. and Colombian armies
have built a solid relationship,
“We get better together, learning from each other and our
experiences,” Hale said.
Col. Angela Mysliwiec, command surgeon, had the opportunity
to engage in partner talks with Lt. Col. Ximena Sofia Caycedo, a member of the
Colombian army serving in the medical operations field. The top two objectives
discussed on day one for the medical professionals were force health protection
and operational medicine.
Caycedo hopes that by the end of the week’s talks, she and
Mysliwiec will be able to create new implementations for the doctrine and
instruction being created in their field.
“We have a strong purpose for increasing levels of support
for combat operations. The reason and purpose behind what I do is to help the
soldier and provide a better quality of life for them, Caycedo explained.
This year’s director-level participation breaks new ground
for U.S. Army South personnel and provides both organizations, director to
director face time with one another, ensuring higher levels of theater security
The end result from this years staff talks will occur in
early 2016, when Mejia and Chinn are expected to sign a memorandum of
understanding to outline specific engagements expected to occur between the
U.S. and Colombian armies in 2016.
In addition to Colombia, U.S. Army South currently conducts
staff talks with four other partner nation countries to include Peru, El
Salvador, Brazil and Chile.