SOCSOUTH News

SOCSOUTH PRESS RELEASE-Suriname and US military build bonds through training exchange
SURINAME AND U.S. MILITARY BUILD BONDS THROUGH TRAINING EXCHANGE
Suriname security forces personnel work with their U.S. counterparts assigned to the 20th Special Forces Group during a water navigation skills exercise, outside of Paramaribo, Suriname, Aug. 27. “We’ve made a lot of progress together in a month. If we ever have to operate together in the future, we know we’ve made partnerships that we can depend upon,” said a senior noncommissioned officer assigned to 20th SFG.
 
 

 

PARAMARIBO, Suriname - Located on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America, Suriname’s security forces are charged with defending its borders and more than 240 miles of coastline. Bordered by French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the West and Brazil to the south, Suriname is a nation full of nature reserves and diversity.

However, like most nations in the region, Suriname is at risk of transnational threats such as organized crime and illicit trafficking.

In order to expand their capability to face these challenges, Suriname military officials welcomed a group of American special operations Soldiers during a four-week Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) in the month of August.

Nearly 50 members of the Surinamese security forces from Suriname’s Army Special Forces and Surinamese military and law enforcement antiterrorism units work with members assigned to the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

The JCET focused on the development of small unit leaders and noncommissioned officers. U.S. and Surinamese forces exchanged training techniques and knowledge of small arms training, small unit tactics, riverine operations and operational planning. JCETs are part of Special Operations Command South’s Theater Security Cooperation program with nations across the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility.

“We’ve made a lot of progress together in a month. If we ever have to operate together in the future, we know we’ve made partners and friends we can depend upon,” said a senior noncommissioned officer assigned to 20th SFG.

Working in coordination with various agencies including the U.S. State Department and partner nation ministries, JCETs provide a platform that enables partner nations to better protect their borders and increase their capacity to conduct special operations.

JCETs also allow U.S. military personnel to improve their teaching skills and gain regional knowledge, and serve as a great opportunity to learn from their Suriname counterparts.

“These JCET exercises provide an excellent opportunity for American Soldiers to visit Suriname and learn new skill sets such as jungle survival and riverine operations from their Surinamese counterparts. The JCET also enables cooperation with Suriname’s military and police by strengthening the professional skills of Surinamese participants,” said the Honorable Jay N. Anania, U.S. ambassador to Suriname.

Following the monthlong training, a final event was conducted by the combined forces to showcase the tactical training they had learned from each other. This event was attended by senior U.S. and Suriname officials including the Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy to Suriname, Valerie Belon and Col. Adolf Jardim, the deputy chief of defense for Suriname.

The culmination event concluded with a ceremony that recognized the successful participation of the Surinamese personnel.

U.S. and Suriname senior officials understand the significance of these events, and the ongoing partnership between the two allies.

“This JCET exercise play an important role in the improvement of military readiness and exchange of experiences,” said Suriname Army Lt. Col. Johnny Antonius, head of defense strategic planning and education of the Ministry of Defense of Suriname. “This training event was an excellent opportunity for both U.S. and Suriname Special Forces to train, operate, and learn together."

Special Operations Command South Welcomes New Commander

Special Operations Command South Welcomes New Commander

Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, the commander of U.S. Southern Command, hands the U. S. Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) unit colors to Army Brig. Gen. Kurt L. Sonntag officially making him the commander of SOCSOUTH during an assumption of command ceremony Sept. 16 at the command's headquarter in Homestead, Fla. Sonntag is the 14th commander in SOCSOUTH history. (Department of Defense Photo by Navy Lt. Joseph Nawrocki, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs)

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RELEASE No. 20140916-01

September 16, 2014

 

Special Operations Command South Press Release

 

HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. - Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and civilians assigned to U.S. Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) welcomed U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Kurt L. Sonntag as the 14th commander of SOCSOUTH, based at Homestead, Fla., during an assumption of command ceremony, September 16.

 

            Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, the combatant commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), presided over the ceremony.            

 

In his remarks, Gen. Kelly welcomed Sonntag and his family to the command and the South Florida area. He also talked about SOCSOUTH’s accomplishments in support of USSOUTHCOM such as building partner nation capacity in order to improve security from transnational organized crime throughout the Western Hemisphere, as well as ongoing partnerships with nations from the Caribbean, Central and South America.

During his first remarks as the commander of SOCOSOUTH, Sonntag talked about the great legacy of SOCSOUTH and working alongside the service members of the command.



Army Brig. Gen. Kurt L. Sonntag speaks to service members and civilians after taking command of Special Operations Command South during an assumption of command ceremony Sept. 16 at the command's headquarters in Homestead, Fla.  Sonntag is the 14th commander in SOCSOUTH's history.  (Department of Defense Photo by Army Master Sgt. Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs)

“The privilege of leading our nation’s finest is something I do not nor will ever take lightly,” he said. “I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work alongside of everyone here.” 

Sonntag arrives at SOCSOUTH after serving as the deputy commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command based in Fort Bragg, N.C.  He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He has served in various leadership positions in his 28-year military career including deployments in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sonntag is married and he has two children.

 

(United States Special Operations Command South is a subordinate component for special operations under the U.S. Special Operations Command, which is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. SOCSOUTH's mission is to plan, prepare and when directed conduct special operations in support of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).

Fuerzas Comando 2014; One Champion, All Winners

Fuerzas Comando 2014; One Champion, All Winners

By Army Staff Sgt. Angel Martinez
113th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FORT TOLEMAIDA, Colombia, Aug. 2, 2014 – After a week of intense heat and extreme competition, Fuerzas Comando, the annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special operations skills competition, came to an end July 31 with a closing ceremony at Fort Tolemaida, Colombia.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group hoist the second place trophy during the closing ceremony of the Fuerzas Comando 2014 competition July 31 in Fort Tolemaida, Colombia. The second place finish was the best performance by the U.S team since the competition was established in 2004. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Angel Martinez
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Seventeen nations competed to earn the title of best special operations forces team in the Western Hemisphere.

For the sixth time in 10 years, the team from the Republic of Colombia hoisted the coveted Fuerzas Comando cup. The U.S. team, comprised of members assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group, placed second and El Salvador was third.

“We are very proud of what we accomplished during the competition and it gives us pride to know how well we completed against elite men from nations like Colombia and the U.S.,” said a member of the El Salvador team. “We look forward to competing again next year and trying to win the cup back for El Salvador.”

El Salvador is a two-time Fuerzas Comando champion.

Even though Colombia came out on top, a much more important reward was bestowed upon the international competitors. The experiences shared and the friends gained throughout the eight-day competition overshadowed medals and trophies.

“You are all winners,” Army Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, the commander for Special Operations Command South, said during the ceremony. “The relationships fostered amongst all of you throughout the competition will last a lifetime. You must build upon these friendships and work together to fight against the common threats we face throughout our hemisphere.”

Honduras, Panama, Jamaica, Peru, Uruguay, Canada and Costa Rica filled out the remaining top 10. Other countries that participated were Paraguay, Chile, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, Dominican Republic and Suriname.

During the closing ceremony, all 17 teams were standing across the field as they did in the opening ceremony, but this time the feeling of accomplishment and pride were visible after eight days of grueling challenges that took each team to their physical and mental limits.

“The 12-mile road march was one of the toughest events in Fuerzas Comando because we had to dig deep for that one. We knew we had to beat Colombia in order to stay on pace with them,” said a U.S. Special Forces soldier assigned to 7th Special Forces Group.

He added that the team put a lot of emphasis on doing well in the road march event.

“It was one of those events we are always counted out of because of poor performances in the past,” the soldier said. “After we won that event, we gained a lot of respect from all of the other countries and became real contenders for the cup.”

The second place finish is the best performance by the U.S team since the competition was established in 2004.

As in the opening ceremony, the Colombian Minister of Defense, Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno, congratulated each nation competing in Fuerzas Comando.

“You are the elite of the elite of your nation,” he said. “As a Colombian, I have a sense of pride with the victory of the Colombian team but you should all be proud of what you have accomplished.”

Following the ceremony, Bueno personally congratulated each of the teams.

For the Colombian team, winning back-to-back Fuerzas Comando titles is something they are not taking for granted.

“We respect each of the teams out here, and we know how hard it is to win this competition,” said a member of the Colombian team. “The great thing about Fuerzas Comando is the friendships we make with people from different countries. We are very proud of this accomplishment and look forward to defending the title next year.”

Special Operations Command South, based in Homestead, Florida, serves as the execution agent for Fuerzas Comando. The event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening ties among Special Operations Forces in the Western Hemisphere.

Fuerzas Comando is scheduled to take place in the Central American nation of Guatemala in June 2015. 

SOCSOUTH and Dominican Republic militaries partner during training exchange

SOCSOUTH and Dominican Republic militaries partner during training exchange

Story by U.S. Navy Lt. Joseph M. Nawrocki

Special Operations Command South Public Affairs

SAN ISIDRO AFB, Dominican Republic - Green Berets assigned to 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), in support of Special Operations Command South, trained with Dominican Republic Special Operations Forces (SOF) as part of a month-long Joint Combined Exchange Training program (JCET) focusing on medical skills, marksmanship, and airborne operations from Feb. 17 to March 20.
 

SOCSOUTH & Dominican Republic militaries partner during training exchange


JCETs allow U.S. military personnel to improve their teaching skills and gain regional knowledge, and also serve as a great opportunity to learn from their Dominican counterparts. In addition, they permit U.S. SOF personnel to build foreign relations and gain military and cultural experiences.

"This JCET gave us a chance to train, and interact, with our Dominican partners," said a 20th SFG (A) team leader. "We lived in their barracks, ate in their dining facility, and taught classes in their native language of Spanish, which provided an excellent training opportunity and built an enduring relationship."

This JCET was centered on three areas; the first was medical training that focused on splinting, pressure dressing tourniquets, and causality transportation.  The second was marksmanship training, which focused on more advanced skills like shooting on the move and engaging multiple targets.  The month-long exchanged concluded with a combined airborne operation between the Dominican Republic and American SOF members, an event that has not taken place since 1994.

To help augment the Green Berets, members from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard (PRANG) and the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) also deployed to the Dominican Republic. The PRANG was  responsible for all air transportation movements and the Civil Affairs members assisted in training the Dominicans for the combined airborne operation.

Because of the significance of the event, the newly appointed U. S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, James (Wally) Brewster, visited the drop zone and met with both U.S. and Dominican servicemembers.

"The importance of the jump and JCET is to continue to build the technical experience and relationships between both our special forces," said Amb. Brewster.

Accompanying the Ambassador was Maj. Gen. Ramon M. Hernandez, the commanding general of the Dominican Air Force.

"We are privileged to share this experience with the U.S. military. Our purpose is to have both forces work together as a unit in order to always maintain stability in the region," said Hernandez.

At the end of the month-long training exchange, a combined airborne operation was conducted where 72 Dominican and 22 American SOF personnel jumped 1,500 feet from an American C-130 airplane onto the San Isidro Air Field, located just outside of Santo Domingo.

During the JCET graduation ceremony, there was a wing exchange between the Dominican and American SOF members. Members that earned their jump wings were pinned by their SOF counterpart, this included both basic and jumpmaster wings. Special Operations Command South's Deputy Commander, Air Force Col. John Poast, received his Dominican basic jump wings and was pinned by Dominican Maj. Gen. Hernandez.

1st Lt. Luis Gomes-Diaz of the Dominican Republic said, "I would like to give thanks to the United States for all of the classes and the jump.  We hope to continue to learn from our U.S. counterparts."

In terms of deployment length, 32 days is relatively brief. However, the Green Berets and their Dominican Republic partners have established a new bond that may last for years to come.
Running to remember

Running to remember.

by Tech. Sgt. Lou Burton
482nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, SOCSOUTH commander, addressed the Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who participated in the 911 remembrance relay race, Sept. 11. The 140-mile relay race began at the southernmost point buoy in Key West, Fla., starting on Sept. 10 at 4 p.m. and concluded at HARB on Sept. 11 at 2 p.m. (U.S. Air Force photo Tech. Sgt. Lou Burton)

9/11/2013 - HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. -- In remembrance of those lost during the tragedy of 9/11, Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines assigned to the Special Operations Command South participated in a 140-mile relay run, Sept. 11.

SOCSOUTH personnel began their run at the famed southernmost point buoy in Key West, Fla., starting on Sept. 10 at 4 p.m. and concluded at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Sept. 11 at 2 p.m. The returning runners were escorted by members from the 482nd Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron.

Military Service members assigned to Special Operations Command South, along with family members, are running across the Florida Keys as part of a 911 Remembrance 140-mile relay run, which began this afternoon at the Southernmost point buoy in Key West, Fla. The run will continue throughout the day and night, and end tomorrow afternoon in Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. The run is to honor the victims of 911, service members and first responders. (DoD Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs Office)

A small remembrance ceremony followed the conclusion of the race in which respect was given to those whose lives were lost in the tragedy and the SOCSOUTH commander spoke about the purpose of the ceremony.

"Today, September 11, 2013, the SOCSOUTH family remembers the fallen and their families on that fateful day," said Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, SOCSOUTH commander. "We also remember our brothers and sisters that went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan and did not return. This day is for all of them. This day is to remember and honor the memory of those thousands of people."

After these remarks, Mulholland asked the group "Do you remember?" In a resounding unified voice, the crowd responded with "We remember."

SOCSOUTH and Trinidad and Tobago partners participate in training exchange

SOCSOUTH and Trinidad and Tobago partners participate in training exchange.

By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Johnson, special correspondent to Special Operations Command South

During a simulated raid on an enemy facility, a Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force member took on the role as an injured subject and had to be exported by a Zodiak boat to a nearby Landing Zone in order for a helicopter to evacuate him to a medical facility. These activities were conducted by Trinidad and Tobago Defence Forces and U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) during a Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) in Trinidad Tobago July 26. JCETs allow U.S.SOF to train and sharpen their skills with foreign nations. (U.S. Army photo by Spec. Michael A. Byars Jr.)

Renowned as a Caribbean vacation spot, the tiny island nation of Trinidad and Tobago is surrounded by stunning beaches and great weather all year around.

However, the island nation has been affected by the regional challenge of illicit trafficking over the past several years. It is a concern that their government officials have acknowledged as a threat to security in the country.

With this threat in mind, Trinidad and Tobago officials welcomed an elite group of American “Green Berets” from the 20th Special Forces Group as part of a four-week Joint Combined Exchange Program during the month of July.

The month-long JCET allowed members of the 20th SF Group to gain regional knowledge and improve their coaching abilities while exchanging methods and maneuvers with members of the Trinidad and Tobago’s Special Naval Unit (SNU) and Special Forces Operation Detachment (SFOD).

Trinidad and Tobago Defence Forces make a raid on a simulated enemy as part of a Culmination Exercise, during a Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) in Trinidad Tobago July 26. In conjunction with SOCSOUTH’s theater security cooperation program, these JCETs enable partner nations to increase their capacity to conduct security operations (U.S. Army photo by Spec. Michael A. Byars Jr.)

JCETs also benefit U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) because they allow SOF personnel to train in ally nations, like Trinidad and Tobago, and develop their military tactics and skills in unfamiliar settings, while also improving bilateral relations and interoperability with partner nation militaries.

JCET are part of Special Operations Command Theater Security Cooperation program. The program enables partner nations to better protect their borders and increase their capacity to conduct special operations. SOCSOUTH is responsible for all U.S. Special Operations activities in the Caribbean, Central and South America and serves as a component for U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Southern Command.

This JCET also has some great significance because it was the first time in four years that a training event of this magnitude has been coordinated with the SNU, and the first time ever training with the SFOD.

“These guys were very receptive to what we trained; they showed genuine passion for their nation, and we are confident that they will continue to train hard and get better,” said a U.S. SOF team member.

During the JCET, they sharpened their military skills by conducting: combat casualty care, 100 and 200 meter swim tests, pistol and rifle shooting, small unit tactics training, and small movement groups training. The JCET concluded with a Culmination Exercise (CULEX) in the form of interdiction operations against simulated organized crime organzations and extremist elements.

A Trinidad and Tobago Defence Forces approaches the landing zone during a simulated casualty to a medical facility as part of a Culmination Exercise, during a Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) in Trinidad Tobago July 26. JCETs are frequently conducted by SOCSOUTH throughout the Caribbean and Central and South Americas at the request of partner nations in order to enhance bilateral relations and interoperability through military-to-military contacts and are a valuable tool in the command’s Theater Security Cooperation program. (U.S. Army photo by Spec. Michael A. Byars Jr.)

According to the executive officer of the U.S. Special Operations Forces team, JCETs like this one enable U.S. teams to hone their military tactics and skills in unfamiliar settings and help to increase the capabilities of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force to conduct operations Countering Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC) and deter illicit traffickers from Trinidad and Tobago borders and waterways.

“Working with the Americans motivated us to be on top of our game. We wanted to show them that we are just as passionate for our country as they are for theirs,” said a Trinidad and Tobago Special Naval Unit (SNU) team member.

At the end of the month-long event, a small ceremony took place where Trinidadian and Tobagonian service members who took part in the training received a certificate of appreciation from their U.S. counterparts.

SOCSOUTH planners hope to continue a strong working relationship with their partners in the coming months and hold similar events in the near future.

SOCSOUTH teams support Fishermen Program and MEDCAP in Dominican Republic

SOCSOUTH teams support Fishermen Program and MEDCAP in Dominican Republic

Story and photos by Capt. Daisy C. Bueno,
Special Operations Command South Public Affairs

A fisherman receives his boat registration, first aid kit and non-perishable food items at the conclusion of a Dominican-led MEDCAP in Cabo Rojo, Dominican Republic June 7. This civil military operation was organized and conducted by the Dominican Navy with assistance by Non-governmental Organizations and U.S. Civil Affairs and Military Information Teams in support of SOCSOUTH. SOCSOUTH is responsible for all special operations in the Caribbean, Central and South America. Through the command’s Theater Security Cooperation Program, special operations Soldiers work closely with their partner nation counterparts in order for them to better protect their borders and increase their capacity to conduct civic action programs such as the MEDCAPs. (Photo by U.S. Army Capt. Daisy C. Bueno, Special Operations Command Public Affairs)

Pedernales, Dominican Republic- Pristine blue waters, sandy beaches and palm trees were the backdrop for a Dominican-led two-day Civil-Military Operation (CMO) event in the province of Pedernales, Dominican Republic, June 6 and 7. These events kicked off a campaign called Costas Seguras (Safe Coasts) in Isla Beata and Cabo Rojo, which included a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) and boat registration for local fishermen and their families. Dominican officials have acknowledged these areas to be susceptible to drug trafficking organizations, which make the fisherman vulnerable to illicit activities.

Members of the Civil Affairs Team (CAT), 478th CA Battalion and Military Information Support Team (MIST), 1st Military Information Support Operations (MISO) Battalion , who was in support of Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH), assisted the Dominican Republic Navy in the planning and concept development process and were present and participated in an advise and assist role during the two-day event which provided much needed medical and social services to the fishermen and their families. As the special operations component for U.S. Southern Command, SOCSOUTH, based in Homestead, Fla., is responsible for all special operations in the Caribbean, Central and South America. Through the command’s Theater Security Cooperation Program, special operations Soldiers work closely with their partner nation counterparts in order for them to better protect their borders and increase their capacity to conduct civic action programs such as the MEDCAPs.

Dominican Navy personnel paint newly registered fishing boats orange in order for them to be more detectable at sea for search, rescue and interdiction purposes during a boat registration and MEDCAP in Cabo Rojo, Dominican Republic, June 7. During the event, fishermen were able to register their boats and receive medical services for themselves and their families at no cost. (Photo by U.S. Army Capt. Daisy C. Bueno, Special Operations Command Public Affairs)

The first day of events took place on Isla Beata, a tiny island off the southwest coast of the Dominican Republic, where a small community of fishermen often work weeks at a time, but have homes and families on the mainland. The Dominican Navy, which has a small base there, became aware of the fishermen concerns, ranging from health to environmental issues, thus leading the Dominican Navy to want to form a mutually beneficial relationship with them. “We want the fishermen to know that they are important and that they will get assistance from us,” said Dominican Navy Cmdr. Feliciano Perez Carvajal, Director of Plans and Operations. “We want them to know that they can rely on the Navy and we want them to have confidence in us.”

A Dominican Navy dentist performs a dental exam on a fisherman during a MEDCAP on Isla Beata, Dominican Republic, June 6. Dominican Navy and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) offered classes in the form of discussion groups and services to the fishermen and their families which included medical consultations, dental hygiene, pharmaceuticals, maritime security/safety and more. (Photo by U.S. Army Capt. Daisy C. Bueno, Special Operations Command Public Affairs)

“The ultimate goal is for the fishermen to see the Dominican Navy as their ally and for them to feel comfortable reporting suspicious activities to Navy personnel,” said Army Capt. Greg Metellus, CA Team leader, 478th CA Battalion. “The Navy can’t be everywhere all the time, and they are eager to collaborate with the fishermen who know the area. These fishermen play a key role by providing the Navy with feedback on what they see in the surrounding waters when they are out fishing.” The second day, another boat registration and MEDCAP were held in the city of Cabo Rojo, Pedernales Province, on the southwestern coast of the Dominican Republic. At both locations, MEDCAPs were conducted by the Dominican Navy and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Classes in the form of discussion groups and services available to the fishermen and their families included medical consultations, dental hygiene, pharmaceuticals and maritime security/safety.

In addition, those who attended were able to register their boats at no cost and had their boats painted orange to make them easier to spot if in distress. The paint serves a secondary function of signifying that they are registered.

At the end of each day of events, the fishermen received their certificates of registration along with a first aid kit for their boats. All in attendance were given a bag of non-perishable food supplies as well.

“This was a good idea,” said Bienvenido Urbaez, the mayor of “La Cueva de Cabo Rojo” and a fisherman of 44 years. “We need to be represented, and this project helps the community.”

In total, 233 residents attended and 88 boats were registered. The Dominican Navy will continue to check on the fishermen on Isla Beata and Cabo Rojo to ensure they have the registration and safety kits on their boats. The Dominican Navy also plans on conducting more boat registrations in the future in order to help more fishermen and to maintain a strong bond between the community and the Dominican Navy.

SOCSOUTH, U.S. Embassy supports Paraguayan National Forces provide free, much-needed medical care during two-day civic action mission

SOCSOUTH, U.S. Embassy supports Paraguayan National Forces provide free, much-needed medical care during two-day civic action mission

Story and photo by Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea,
Special Operations Command South Public Affairs

A Paraguayan military dental hygienist examines the teeth of a local man during a two-day Paraguayan-led medical civic action program June 1 in Yasy Cany, located in the Canindeyú Department of Paraguay. Several hygienists and dentists helped thousands of residents by examining patients for oral diseases such as gingivitis, performed teeth cleanings and provided other preventative dental care. (Department of Defense photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs)

Located in the vast internal countryside located 160 miles outside of the capital of Asuncion, the town lacks many basic services and its infrastructure needs to be revamped.
Driving into town is quite a sight as poverty is truly visible. With small shops on one side of the road and a few rundown houses, shacks and restaurants on the other side, the livestock running the grounds along the road tends to be the most interesting part of the drive.
Unemployment is high and most families live on a monthly wage of $100 a month in order to feed a family of six and in some cases up to 10 people in one household.
To put it into perspective, many Americans can typically spend that amount if not more at their neighborhood restaurant or bar on any given night. It’s safe to say life is not easy here and everyday is a struggle.
Its towns like these where members of the Paraguayan military and its Civil Affairs elements thrive and love to work in. This is their purpose and it has been since it was established eight years ago.
After several months of planning and with support from the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) at the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay and Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) Civil Affairs, based in Homestead, Fla., a during two-day Medical Civic Action Program, commonly referred to as a MEDCAP, was held June 1 and 2 in the area’s largest school. More than 3,000 residents received social and medical services to include pediatrics, gynecology general medicine, optometry, ophthalmology, dentistry, immunizations, identification registration and family planning. In addition, laboratory and pharmacy services were also provided. Paraguayan officials also felt the Canindeyú Department, located in the northeast part of Paraguay and bordering Brazil, was an important area to provide these services due to the poverty level in the region and in the wake of the massacres in nearby Marina Cue following a land dispute between land squatters and police leaving 17 dead, 11 peasants and 6 police officers, and 80 wounded in June 2012. The event shook the confidence and trust among many of the residents toward the nation’s security forces, a misperception they want to change.

A Paraguayan ophthalmologist examines the eyes of a local woman using a non-mydriatic retinal camera during a two-day Paraguayan-led medical civic action program June 1 in Yasy Cany, located in the Canindeyú Department of Paraguay. Many residents who suffer from cataracts, a clouding of the lens of the eye that impairs vision, were able to be diagnosed and receive new glasses during the event. (Department of Defense photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs)

“We plan and execute these missions because we understand the needs of the people in places like this and these services are important to their livelihood,” said Paraguayan Col. Leonardo Ibarrola, the operations officer for Paraguay’s Civil Affairs team. “This is a very poor area, and we understand our role as part of the government is to make sure our presence is felt and help those in the country who don’t have much and need our assistance.”
In order to provide these essential services to residents living in country’s rural districts, the Paraguayan military works closely with a number of different government agencies such as the Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Justice and various other agencies and civic groups to provide the support and personnel for such a complex operation and truly reflects Paraguayan’s ‘whole-of-government’ approach.
Despite a rainy, cool weekend in the area, word of the event spread quickly throughout town. Some residents walked three and four miles to arrive at the school and others packed themselves in pick-up trucks.
The Paraguayan military also provided transportation to the MEDCAP as it used its fleet of five-ton trucks to run a shuttle service in order to reach citizens living in the rural areas with no or limited road access to ensure as many people as possible could receive these services.
Sitting outside one of several classrooms, which were used as makeshift clinics during the two-day event, 74-year-old resident Anadeto Furrez, a father of eight children, patiently waited for his prescription for free medicine. Anadeto, who also suffers from cataracts, a clouding of the lens of the eye that impairs vision, was also given a new pair of glasses to help him improve his sight.

Residents of Yasy Cany packed themselves in pick-up trucks in order to receive free medical and social services during a two-day Paraguayan-led medical civic action program June 1 in the Canindeyú Department of Paraguay. More than 3,000 residents received services to include pediatrics, gynecology general medicine, optometry, ophthalmology, dentistry, immunizations, identification registration and family planning. In addition, laboratory and pharmacy services were also provided. (Department of Defense photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs)
“This day is a miracle and a blessing,” said the grandfather of 35 grandchildren. “These are services we truly need, and I am very grateful to our military and the support from the U.S. We hope things start to get better and more jobs come to our town. This is a start!” Along with support for the MEDCAP, the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay donated $15,000 worth of medicine and medical equipment to the town’s public clinic as well as an assortment of school supplies such as backpacks, coloring pencils, dry-erase boards among other items for two local schools.
The donation was a symbolic gesture by U.S. officials in Paraguay for continued cooperation between the allies for the people of Paraguay.
“The United States is committed to assist Paraguay and help improve the quality of life for all Paraguayans and build a lasting friendship based of mutual respect and cooperation between our great nations,” said Marine Col. Michael D. Flynn, the Senior Defense Official and Defense Attaché for the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay, during a small ceremony celebrating the event and donation.
Since 2008, the Paraguayan Civil Affairs section, which also teams up with the country’s national police during the planning and execution for these events, have averaged four MEDCAPs a year in ungoverned and under resourced areas across the country. This event marked the 22nd time this type of operation was accomplished.
“These guys [Paraguayan Civil Affairs] are truly professional and have a passion for what they do,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Hansel Delgadillo, who is the lead Civil Affairs planner for SOCSOUTH in support of the ODC in country.
Delgadillo has been working with his counterparts for the better part of three years and has seen the Paraguayan Civil Affairs unit develop each year.
“From planning to coordination and execution, they are really in control of each event they conduct, and the leadership demands nothing but the best to ensure every citizen is treated and cared for,” he said.
Paraguayan Civil Affairs planners, with support from SOCSOUTH, are already coordinating the concept of operations for another MEDCAP this September in another rural community.
There is no question living here is tough and will continue for the foreseeable future. However, during this past weekend, there were two expressions on people’s faces: pain and joy.
Blame the pain on the dentistry work, but with pain comes a healthy smile.

To view more photos of SOCSOUTH in action visit the photo gallery

U.S., Colombia, and Guatemala collaborate during Civil Affairs SMEE

U.S., Colombia, and Guatemala collaborate during Civil Affairs SMEE

Story and photos by Capt. Daisy C. Bueno,
Special Operations Command South Public Affairs

During the last day and a half of the Colombian-led Civil Affairs Subject Matter Expert Exchange held in Guatemala, April 23-25, the participants formed into small groups and worked on issues, where solutions were presented to the entire group on the final day of the SMEE for comments and feedback. The end product for the SMEE would then be presented to the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense for solutions / recommendations on the way ahead. (Photo by Army Capt. Daisy C. Bueno, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs)

U.S., Colombia, and Guatemala collaborate during Civil Affairs SMEE By Army Capt. Daisy C. Bueno, SOCSOUTH Public Affairs GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala –Civil Affairs officers from U.S. Southern Command and Special Operations Command South facilitated a Colombian-led Civil Affairs Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with Guatemalan Civil Affairs (CA) counterparts in Guatemala April 23-25 to develop a strategy to increase Guatemala’s Civil Affairs capacity to disrupt transnational organized criminal activities in minimally governed areas. The SMEE was designed to provide the Civil Affairs representatives with a forum for sharing best practices in Civil Military Operations (CMO) and Civil Affairs Operations (CAO) and to discuss future CA focused engagement opportunities to complement U.S. Southern Command efforts in Countering Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC). “One of the outcomes we would like to see from this is SMEE is that Colombia and Guatemala have some type of civil affairs instructor exchange between the two countries,” said Army Capt. Roger Garcia, Civil Affairs Team leader in Guatemala. “This way they can actually share and learn from each other on a more permanent basis.” This SMEE, along with future exchanges, was conducted in order to equip participants with the tools and skills needed to assess communities, prioritize needs, and coordinate resources and efforts with the critical objective of improving the quality of life of Guatemalan citizens. Exchanges like these provide an opportunity for the two countries to learn from each other and to share best practices in working within the areas of CMO and CAO. “Both Guatemala and Colombia talked about their current situations, their strengths, their weaknesses, their successes, what they need to improve on, and of course how to apply them here in Guatemala,” said Army Maj. Steve Caceres, the Theater Civil Affairs Engagement Program executive officer at SOCSOUTH. “Obviously the threats are not exactly the same in both countries, but they’re similar and it’s extremely valuable to have them share their experiences.”

SOCSOUTH and USSOUTHCOM Civil Affairs personnel participated in a Colombia-led Civil Affairs Subject Matter Expert Exchange April 23-25 in Guatemala. Colombian subject matter experts traveled to Guatemala in order to discuss, exchange, share best practices and to discuss future CA focused engagement opportunities with Guatemalan militaries. (Photo by Army Capt. Daisy C. Bueno, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs)

Elements of this exchange included discussions on doctrine, organization, education, materiel and equipment, experiences and lessons learned. Ideas from these discussions culminated in working groups where solutions were presented to the entire group on the final day of the SMEE. The end product would then be presented to the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense for solutions / recommendations on the way ahead. “This has been a very good venue to share experiences between the militaries of Colombia and Guatemala,” said Juan Correa, a defense information officer from Colombia. “We both have practices that are helpful to each other and this is a great opportunity to strengthen our civil affairs capabilities.” Representatives from all participating nations said they anticipate continuing to strengthen their relationships and improve interoperability with the Civil Affairs knowledge they gained during the SMEE. Guatemalan participants will be able to go back to their commands and educate their units on what they learned and said they are looking forward to other events like this with their Colombian counterparts.

To view more photos of SOCSOUTH in action visit the photo gallery

JROTC cadets take part in military training day at Homestead ARB

JROTC cadets take part in military training day at Homestead ARB

Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea,
Special Operations Command South Public Affairs

Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Tim Core, a senior training advisor assigned to Special Operations Command South, gives words of encouragement to 16-year-old Monica Nieves, an Air Force JROTC cadet from Homestead High School, before she rappels from a tower April 17 at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. More than 100 JROTC cadets from Homestead and South Dade High Schools got the chance to experience realistic military training as part of a daylong event hosted by servicemembers assigned to SOCSOUTH. (Department of Defense photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs)

HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla.,- More than 100 Army and Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) cadets from two Homestead-area schools participated in a military training day here April 17. JROTC cadets from Homestead and South Dade High Schools participated in realistic military training as part of a daylong event hosted by servicemembers assigned to Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH). The event is part of SOCSOUTH’s ongoing mentorship program called the Special Operations Command Military Assistance Program or SOCMAP. The program was established in an effort to strengthen ties between SOCSOUTH and high school students across the Homestead area. “Today's event was meant to reinforce the JROTC goal of “motivating young people to be better citizens” by providing professionally administered military events that are safe, fun, interesting, and challenging to the cadets from South Dade and Homestead High Schools,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer Brain Masterson, the command chief warrant officer for SOCSOUTH. “This event helps further the development of a bond between our military personnel and the students and faculty of the participating high schools, which has a positive impact on everyone involved in the program."

Army Sgt. 1st Class William Baker, a senior parachute rigger assigned to Special Operations Command South, instructs JROTC cadets from South Dade High School how to properly place an aviator’s kit bag when wearing a military parachute April 17 at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. The event is part of the command’s ongoing mentorship program called the Special Operations Command Military Assistance Program or SOCMAP. The program was established in an effort to strengthen ties between SOCSOUTH and high students schools across the Homestead area. (Department of Defense photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs)

During the event, the cadets participated in several military stations such as rappelling from a 50-foot tower, a series of physical training activities, military communications familiarization and the opportunity to wear a military parachute. Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Reginald Murray, who is a JROTC instructor at South Dade High School, said he appreciated the opportunity to have his students partake in these events on a real military installation with military members. He also said that events like this will leave a lasting impression on his students. “This type of event really shows our cadets the types of opportunities they have and that with hard work you can achieve anything,” said Murray. “They also learn a new sense of appreciation for the men and women in the military, and I can tell you these guys [servicemembers] are really making a difference in these cadets’ lives and setting a good example on what it is to be a productive citizen.”

JROTC cadets from South Dade High School do military presses using containers filled with rocks as part of a series of drills as part of a military training day April 17 at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. The event is part of SOCSOUTH’s ongoing mentorship program called the Special Operations Command Military Assistance Program or SOCMAP. The program was established in an effort to strengthen ties between SOCSOUTH and high school students throughout the Homestead area. (Department of Defense photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs)

Murray added that the South Dade JROTC program has more than 400 students from grades 9-12. In order for the cadets to take part in events like this, they must maintain a good grade-point average in all of their classes. The program also encourages all its members to strive to achieve their dreams and pursue higher education. For 16-year-old Kevin Ferrera, who attends South Dade high school and wants to study music, this event was a refreshing break from the classroom. “This was a really great day and I had a lot of fun doing all these military exercises,” he said. “I really appreciate what the military does for our country.” Masterson, along with other members of the command, understands how helping to develop tomorrow’s leaders through positive role models and mentorship. “Let's be clear that the faculty, staff, and JROTC cadre from both schools are developing these young people for the future, and I would add that there are no finer people than those who commit their lives to the education of our children,” he said. “Our goal with this event today is to assist them by providing additional positive role models and by offering our time, knowledge, and experience." Members of SOCSOUTH hope to continue their work in the community and with programs such as SOCMAP which has helped establish the command’s ongoing commitment to the community. “Numerous members of this command dedicate countless hours during their spare time in volunteering as coaches in youth sports and helping those in need,” said Masterson. SOCMAP enables us to build the outreach program in the local community so we can impact as many young people as possible."

To view more photos of SOCSOUTH in action visit the photo gallery

U.S., El Salvador partnership leads to mission success in Afghanistan

U.S., El Salvador partnership leads to mission success in Afghanistan

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Shanda L. De Anda
U.S. Southern Command Public Affairs

A Salvadoran airman returning from his deployment to Afghanistan is greeted by a family member at the airport in San Salvador, Feb. 28. Currently, El Salvador is the only country in U.S. Southern Command’s area of responsibility contributing forces to Afghanistan. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Shanda L. De Anda, U.S. Southern Command)

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Eleven Salvadoran airmen returned from Afghanistan to El Salvador on Feb. 28. During their deployment, the group filled the roles of aviation advisors and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) liaison officers (LNOs), positions which have been filled by U.S. servicemembers in the past. The partnership between the United States and El Salvador is a long standing one. Not only does El Salvador host a joint air force base at Comalapa that serves as a platform for regional drug interdiction missions, but it has also contributed military personnel to assist with international peacekeeping missions in Iraq, Haiti and Lebanon. Currently, El Salvador is the only country in U.S. Southern Command’s area of responsibility contributing forces to Afghanistan. “As chief of the Salvadoran Air Force, I am very proud that our personnel can be a part of such an active mission and support an important role of another air force,” said Salvadoran Col. Carlos Mena, Chief of the El Salvadoran Air Force. “They know that they are contributing to maintain the peace worldwide, specifically in Afghanistan.” To prepare for this deployment, SOCSOUTH was instrumental in facilitating the process, from requisitioning the necessary equipment to recommending pre-deployment training. A role SOCSOUTH is very familiar with as they use small units in military actions focused on strategic or operational objectives with partners throughout the region. SOCSOUTH, based in Homestead, Fla., is responsible for all U.S. Special Operations activities in the Caribbean, Central and South America; it serves as a component for U.S. Southern Command. “Having expert advisors who had already been there, as well as having a team of all volunteers for this Afghanistan mission, made training easier,” said Col. Mena. “It really makes the training easy because the airmen that went wanted to be there, they wanted to receive the training, and they wanted to be a part of the mission.” The training that the Salvadoran airmen went through is similar to what U.S. servicemembers receive in preparation for deployment. The

Salvadoran airmen walk through the courtyard at its Air Force Headquarters during their welcome home ceremony from their deployment in Afghanistan, Feb. 28 in San Salvador. During their deployment, the group filled the roles of aviation advisors and International Security Assistance Force liaison officers. Currently, El Salvador is the only country in the Western Hemisphere to send troops to Afghanistan. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Shanda L. De Anda, U.S. Southern Command)

Salvadorans also received psychological and medical evaluations and other exams to ensure they were fit for a combat mission. The Salvadoran airmen said that while the training prepared them for their deployment to Afghanistan, there were some realities that could only be taught through first-hand experiences. After the 10-month deployment for the nine aviation advisors and eight-month deployment for the three ISAF LNOs, some of those realities were encouraging. “Most of the time you know that the news usually shows only the bad side, the shocking news, but once you’re in theater you realize that Afghanistan has changed a lot,” said Salvadoran Col. Manuel Calderon, who deployed to Camp Arena in Herat, Afghanistan. “You are now able to see female children going to school and you see some women on the street not wearing burqas; it’s getting better.” Lt. Col. Joel Quintanilla, who deployed to ISAF HQ as a logistics staff officer to Kabul Afghanistan said, “The most rewarding part for me was helping to develop a better future for the people of Afghanistan. We are very proud to be representing our country, but I think as a troop-contributing nation, we’re doing plenty to keep the peace and freedom of the people of Afghanistan.” The peacekeeping role will increasingly become the responsibility of NATO partners like El Salvador as the U.S. continues to bring troops home from Afghanistan. “As the U.S. administration begins its withdrawal from Afghanistan, U.S. servicemembers will have to be replaced with partner nations,” said U.S. Army Maj. David Schulz, Deputy Army Section Chief at the Military Group in El Salvador. “Historically, El Salvador is one of the strongest partners in Central America and the missions that they’re doing now in Afghanistan are ones that had been done by U.S. counterparts in the past.” El Salvador has an upcoming deployment that will replace U.S. troops in a role that will take them outside the wire as they directly partner with Afghan Police. This particular mission will be supported by 13 El Salvadoran military personnel. U.S. Special Operations Forces personnel will be partnering with the Salvadorans when they train at

Salvadoran airmen walk through the courtyard at its Air Force Headquarters during their welcome home ceremony from their deployment in Afghanistan, Feb. 28 in San Salvador. During their deployment, the group filled the roles of aviation advisors and International Security Assistance Force liaison officers. Currently, El Salvador is the only country in the Western Hemisphere to send troops to Afghanistan. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Shanda L. De Anda, U.S. Southern Command)

Ft. Polk, La., later this year. In order to help prepare the team, Maj. Schulz coordinated a pre-deployment site survey and traveled with a team of five Salvadoran officers to Afghanistan for two weeks to meet U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leadership, to modify equipment requisitions as needed, and to meet their Afghan counterparts. “It’s going to be the first Salvadoran contingent to go outside the wire, as their mission is to advise an Afghan police battalion in Herat, Afghanistan,” said Maj. Schulz, whose most recent deployment to Afghanistan was in 2011, when he was a company commander on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Schulz added, “It was a truly amazing experience, something I had never done before, but something I took a lot of pride in doing because of the importance of the mission.” The Salvadoran counterparts agreed with the importance of the mission and said that things are better; however, stability in Afghanistan has yet to be completely achieved. “Even though I fought the [civil] war here in El Salvador for three years, the thing that shocked me the most was an attack that occurred in September when a suicide bomber approached ISAF Headquarters in Kabul, but could not get through, so he killed himself outside the gate. He blew himself up, killing six children and three adults,” said Lt. Col. Quintanilla. “We had built a relationship with these children who sold knickknacks outside the headquarters, so it was a very sad thing to witness that.” As Afghanistan works to establish and maintain stability in all regions of their country, NATO forces including military-to-military partners like the United States and El Salvador continue to support them. These partnerships not only illustrate the similarities of our militaries, but also strengthen the values and bonds shared among servicemembers. SOCSOUTH continues its partnership with El Salvador, as they continue to improve the capabilities of both militaries and to work toward meeting today’s challenges and asymmetrical threats.
 

Special Ops Command South Presses for Increased Engagement

Special Ops Command South Presses for Increased Engagement

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Army Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command South, right, chats with Colombians whom his special operators are mentoring at the Tolemaida national training base in Colombia, Nov. 4, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Edward Lauer.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2013 – Despite dwindling resources and a national defense focus on the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, the commander of Special Operations Command South is committed to not only maintaining, but increasing engagements in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

 

Regular, sustained engagement is key to SOC South’s core mission: building partner capacity so regional nations can address their own challenges, Army Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland told American Forces Press Service while here for an annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium and Exhibition.

“On any given day, I have over 300 people deployed downrange to Central and South America, including members of every service’s special operations force and their civil affairs and military information support teams,” he said. “SOC South is engaged 365 [days a year], 24/7.”

A Green Beret who has served most of his career within Latin America, Mulholland said he’s convinced that persistent engagement establishes a level of credibility and trust simply not possible through traditional training and exercise programs. “Building partner capacity is planting seeds” that require nurturing over time, he said.

“It’s really not rocket science. It’s about personal relationships and what we do as we build partner capacity,” he said. “It is always letting your partners know that you are there, inside their country, helping them out -- whether it is one guy or 50 guys and gals. It is all about contact.”

Since assuming command in October, Mulholland has made a concerted effort to promote these contacts, all governed by the host nation’s requests, in collaboration with the U.S. embassy country team and at the direction of U.S. Southern Command.

“We don’t do anything [the host nation] doesn’t ask for. And we don’t do anything the embassy hasn’t approved that we do,” he explained. “There is nothing spooky or under-the-table about what we do. It is all above-board, and it is all about building partner capacity.”

That capacity is vital to stemming the challenges in the region: drug traffickers and other transnational criminals and terrorist elements seeking footholds in ungoverned spaces, among them. These groups use these areas to flow drugs and other illicit shipments through Central America and Mexico and, ultimately, to the United States.

“The best way to go after a threat is to have that partner nation develop a security capacity and diminish that threat,” Mulholland said. “I can affect this bridge coming up north through Mexico to the United States. I can do that by helping build partner capacity with [host nation] units that are actually going to go out there and do something about it. And that is happening.”

Mulholland cited Colombia as the shining example of what capacity building can achieve.

Historically, the FARC -- Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia -- ran rampant in Colombia, terrorizing citizens with a spate of murders, kidnapping and other activities associated with narcotics trafficking. But 25 years ago, the Colombian police force was corrupt and the military forces were in disarray.

Today, thanks to strong Colombian leadership and persistent U.S. support and engagement, Colombia has capable, highly respected security forces. In addition to securing their own country, they are now training other regional militaries.

“They have become exporters of [force integration training],” Mulholland said, taking what they have learned and sharing it with their neighbors. “This is Latins training Latins, and that is a beautiful story,” Mulholland said. “It’s poetry.”

Other success stories can be found in Brazil, which has long stood as a strong example in the region, and increasingly in Panama, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Mulholland acknowledged concerns about Honduras, where constrained resources limit its special operators’ ability to reach ungoverned sections of the country that offer traffickers safe havens.

Training exercises in these “dark areas” have had a temporary effect of diverting traffickers, but they consistently return after the operations there end, he said.

“The problem is that the activity is not persistent,” Mulholland said, noting that’s a problem SOC South alone can’t fix.

“Mobility is a big challenge in Honduras, and if you can’t get to the show in these ungoverned spaces, then that is a big issue,” he said.

Mulholland recognized that no matter how much he tries to expand engagements, he’ll never have the assets to keep up with demand. So he seeks out opportunities to partner in countries interested in “training, not just for training’s sake, but to go operational.”

SOC South’s special operators help partner military and police forces improve their counterdrug capabilities, then embed with them to help them plan and conduct actual missions.

“We can’t go out on the objective, patrol or do combat operations with them” due to U.S. legal restrictions, Mulholland explained.

“But we can go to the last base and provide planning and medical support,” he said, “and once a mission is completed, help assess what went right and what needs improvement.”

This forms a bond simply not possible through traditional schoolhouse training and short-duration exercises, he said.

“We are practitioners, not visitors. … This deepens our commitment to them, and they know it,” Mulholland said. “They know we are there for them, so I think it builds partnership capacity faster.”

It’s a formula that’s been tested and proven over time, even while wartime requirements in Iraq and Afghanistan tapped some of SOC South’s personnel and equipment. At one point, for example, Mulholland was serving as commander of the 7th Special Forces Group that focused on Latin America and the Caribbean when he was deployed for a year to Regional Command North in Afghanistan.

“SOC South, the ‘quiet little store,’ has been doing this forever. … So even after 9/11, the little store stayed open, continually grinding away, building partner capacity,” he said.

Now, as defense budgets get tightened, he said he’ll do everything he can to increase engagement in the region. That, Mulholland recognized, is likely to require scrapping the “nice to have” activities and concentrating on what’s essential.

“If I have to tighten my belt, I will,” he said. “I am willing to strip away everything else, but I would be hard-pressed to cut engagements, because that is where we make our money.

“So I am going to try to force the envelope and do more,” he continued. “I want to be sure my soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are engaging, because the priority is contact -- flesh to flesh, training and advising with our partners. And that will not suffer on my watch.”

Meanwhile, Mulholland has made a concerted effort to rebuild capabilities that have eroded during the past decade of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s pressing to increase Spanish-language proficiency across the command, speaking only in Spanish to his staff and offering Spanish classes for spouses.

In addition, he’s limiting the time SOC South members spend at their headquarters at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida.

“I’m pushing them out to Honduras, to Colombia, to Peru, and increasing their level of engagement without breaking their backs,” Mulholland said.

“In these times of reducing resources, we need to push out as much as we can,” he said. “We can’t take on this protracted tortoise mentality, saying we don’t have enough money or resources. Instead, I am going to do everything I can to get more people out there.

“If we do the tortoise in the shell game, I think we are going to miss something,” Mulholland added. “And I don’t want to be the guy on watch who missed something.”
 

NSW Operators Assist Honduran Military

NSW operators assist Honduran military to establish elite maritime unit.

By Navy Ensign Brian Bird and ITC Gino Rullo Naval Warfare Unit-Four 

 

A Honduran sailor carries a kettle bell in Caribbean waters as part of a open water competency during two, eight-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/s) style selection courses conducted by members of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Task Element-Alpha (NSWTE-A). This training was conducting in order to assist their Honduran counterparts establish the Honduran Fuerza Especiales Naval (FEN) division within the Honduran military. The FEN is a maritime unit of Special Operators capable of combating transnational organized crime in and around their waterways. Over 110 Honduran sailors attended the courses, resulting in 45 highly-qualified Honduran Special Operators by the end of the training. (U.S. Navy Photo by ITC Gino Rullo, Naval Special Warfare Unit-FOUR)

With a rate of 86 people killed for every 100,000 inhabitants, Honduras is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world according to statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report in 2011.                 

With a murder rate four times higher than Mexico, these alarming numbers depict a nation where violence is part of everyday life. Many of these casualties are linked to narcotics trafficking, where Honduras and other Central American nations are used as a transit point from South America into Mexico and the U.S.; the preponderance of these illicit activities enter the region by maritime.

During a recent six-month deployment, members of Naval Special Warfare Task Element-Alpha (NSWTE-A), a deployed maneuver element attached to Naval Special Warfare Unit-FOUR (NSWU-4) in support of Special Operations Command South, partnered with their Honduran counterparts to train and increase the military capacity of the newly established Honduran Fuerza Especiales Naval or (FEN). The FEN is a maritime unit of Special Operators capable of combating transnational organized crime in and around their waterways.

NSWU4, stationed in Joint Expeditionary Base, Little Creek, Va., and in support of SOCSOUTH, headquartered at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., designed and implemented a comprehensive training and maintenance plan to build the FEN into a strong counter-narcotic force.

Honduran sailors tackle the tides during an over the beach surf passage training exercise as part of two, eight-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/s) style selection courses conducted by members of U.S. Naval Special Warfare Task Element-Alpha (NSWTE-A) in order to assist their Honduran counterparts establish the Honduran Fuerza Especiales Naval (FEN) division within the Honduran military. NSWTE-A was deployed to Honduras for six months in support of Special Operations Command South. With the assistance of SOCSOUTH and Naval Special Warfare Unit-FOUR, the Honduran military has stepped up their efforts to secure their borders in order to deter illicit activities entering their country through their waterways. (U.S. Navy Photo by ITC Gino Rullo, Naval Special Warfare Unit-FOUR)

Ten operators from SEAL Team 18, attached to NSWU-4, spent six months training and observing the FEN in a multi-disciplinary approach, resulting in 45 highly qualified Honduran Special Operators by the end of the two, eight-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/s) style training. These courses were modeled after the BUD/s selection training done by the U.S. Navy SEALs in Coronado, Calif. 

Some of the conditioning assessments included an eight-mile log physical training event and a six-nautical mile ocean swim across the Bahia de Trujillo. After completing these physical and mental hardships to become a member of the FEN, the 45 qualified individuals continued through more rigorous and operationally-focused skills training, which completed their transformation into a disciplined and dedicated team capable of providing the Honduran Fuerza Naval a capable maritime branch of special operations.

To compliment the efforts of the Navy SEALs, members from Naval Special Warfare Special Boat Team 22 also spent a month with counterparts from NSWTE-A training the FEN in basic watercraft maintenance skills and procedures, nautical chart familiarization, boat vectoring and intercepting techniques, small boat handling tactics, and long-range navigation exercises.

Outside of the physical and technical training that is associated with a special operator, NSWTE-A focused on creating a team of communication specialists within the FEN to become experts in Harris radio technologies, a skill set that is lacking in most Central American units due to the lack of expertise. “In my whole military career, I can only remember three times when radios were used successfully on a mission,” said the FEN’s commanding officer. He added that the skills learned during this training should improve the success rate of radios during military movements.

Honduran Fuerza Especiales Naval (FEN) candidates use teamwork to perform physical training exercises with a heavy log at a local beachside in Honduras in the fall of 2012. Log physical training exercises were one of many physically demanding exercises as part of two, eight-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/s) style selection courses conducted by members of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Task Element-Alpha (NSWTE-A) in order to assist their Honduran counterparts establish this elite unit within the Honduran military. The FEN is a maritime unit of Special Operators capable of combating transnational organized crime in and around their waterways. Over 110 Honduran sailors attended the courses resulting in 45 highly-qualified Honduran Special Operators by the end of the training. (U.S. Navy Photo by ITC Gino Rullo, Naval Special Warfare Unit-FOUR)

NSWTE-A also focused its efforts on partner nation self-sustainment strategies when seven FEN members were selected as future instructors, shadowing NSW counterparts during all training evolutions. This mentorship provided each Honduran instructor with the competence and confidence to conduct future selection courses and internal sustainment training unilaterally.

  Organizational departments were also created to include assault, boats, communications, engineering and training with a senior officer and enlisted advisor assigned to each department. “The unique task organization, presentation of functional skill sets, and development of unit pride and esprit de corps has effectively paved the way for continued Honduran led training and operations in the future in order to keep their borders secure against transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking,” said the NSWTE-A officer in charge.

Ranger graduates from Kaibil School

Ranger graduates from Kaibil School

By Tracy A. Bailey

75th Ranger Regiment Public Affairs

 

Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, the commander of Special Operations Command, along with leaders from the Guatemalan military stand during the Guatemalan special operations Kaibil School graduation ceremony Dec. 5 in Poptún, Guatemala. Mulholland attended the graduation ceremony and was able to congratulate Staff Sgt. Joel R. Rodriguez, Jr., a Ranger Reconnaissance Team Leader assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Rodriguez was the first American Soldier in 25 years to graduate from the Kaibil course. The school is considered one of the most prestigious, vigorous, arduous military courses in Central America. The school consists of jungle warfare tactics and counter-insurgency operations and is oriented towards small-unit tactics with great mental and psychological stresses and physical fatigue. (Photo by Army Maj. Edward Lauer, Special Operations Command South)

FORT BENNING, Ga. (USASOC News Service, Dec. 18, 2012) – For the first time in more than 25 years, an American Soldier has graduated from the Guatemalan special operations Kaibil School, in Poptún, Guatemala.

 

Staff Sgt. Joel R. Rodriguez, Jr., a Ranger Reconnaissance Team Leader assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2d Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., graduated December 2012.

 

"I volunteered to attend this school because I wanted the challenge," said Rodriguez. "I wanted to test myself and it's something I wanted to accomplish during my military career."

 

The Kaibil School is considered one of the most prestigious, vigorous, arduous military courses in Central America. Their motto: "If I advance, follow me. If I stop, urge me on. If I retreat, kill me."

 

Within one week of starting the process, Rodriguez was en route to Guatemala City to start his training with no preparation whatsoever.

 

The Kaibil School specializes in jungle warfare tactics and counter-insurgency operations, small unit tactics and students endure great mental and psychological stresses and physical fatigue.

 

According to the Ministry of Defense, the Kaibil Center's mission is to train and develop elite commando forces: "To select by means of arduous, difficult training under physical and mental pressure, members of the (Guatemalan) army are capable of engaging in commando operations."

 

"Our training started with an introduction to our instructors while rolling around in mud puddles and a duck walk in four foot deep puddles and saying the Kaibil creed and motto at the same time," said Rodriguez.

 

The students ran five miles to the school grounds, stopping for extracurricular activities such as high and low crawling through brush, duck walking in formation, for an unknown distance, followed by low crawling in the mud.

 

"Once we arrived at the school, that's where the actual course began," said Rodriguez. "And there was only one way in – low crawling 400 meters to the classroom."

Staff Sgt. Joel R. Rodriguez, Jr., a Ranger Reconnaissance Team Leader assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., stands at attention during the Guatemalan special operations Kaibil School graduation ceremony Dec. 5 in Poptún, Guatemala. Rodriguez was the first American Soldier in 25 years to graduate from the Kaibil course. The school is considered one of the most prestigious, vigorous, arduous military courses in Central America. The school consists of jungle warfare tactics and counter-insurgency operations and is oriented towards small-unit tactics with great mental and psychological stresses and physical fatigue. Rodriguez lost 40 pounds during the course. (Photo by Army Maj. Edward Lauer, Special Operations Command South)

 

Eating is always a challenge when attending any military course but the Kaibil School puts unique demands on its students.

 

"A Kaibil student must do several events in order to eat," said Rodriguez. "Run 2 miles in 18 minutes or less in full combat gear, conduct five pull ups and 10 pushups. Then we duck walked 50 meters to the dining facility and while waiting to enter the building, we had to stay in the duck walk position."

Once the students reached the Dining Facility, they were given 30 seconds to eat.

 

"We ate what we could as fast as we could," said Rodriguez.

 

It's no wonder the Ranger lost 40 pounds.

 

Phase One training consisted of forced road marches from distances of three miles to 32 miles, introduction to GPS and land navigation course, basic first aid, introduction to patrolling, hand-to-hand combat, obstacle courses and introduction to the Kaibil doctrine of patrolling.

 

During Phase One, which is three weeks long, 30 students out of 49 dropped from the course.

 

Phase Two is the mountain phase and consisted of mountaineering techniques, waterborne operations, introduction to SCUBA training, construction of improvised bridges, SERE training, incursions, weapons familiarization, small unit patrols, basic demolitions, basic air mobile techniques, react to contact, and ambush classes.

 

"The intensity of the course did subside some in Phase Two," said Rodriguez. "The course was a little more relaxed."

 

The students were exposed to prisoner of war camp situations and survival courses. However, Rodriguez did not want to say too much in order to protect the integrity of the course.

 

"I experienced what it is like to be a POW and what stresses and stressors a POW may experience," said Rodriguez. "We were also taught how to process game and forage for food."

 

Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, the commander of Special Operations Command, congratulates Staff Sgt. Joel R. Rodriguez, Jr., a Ranger Reconnaissance Team Leader assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., following the Guatemalan special operations Kaibil School graduation ceremony Dec. 5 in Poptún, Guatemala. Mulholland thanked the U.S. Army Ranger for his hard work, perseverance and duty to his country. Rodriguez was the first American Soldier in 25 years to graduate from the Kaibil course. (Photo by Army Maj. Edward Lauer, Special Operations Command South)

Phase Two is four weeks long and Rodriguez experienced the same physical and mental stress as Phase One. Four additional students dropped from the course during this phase.

 

Several events took place during the final phase of the course, including final patrols, ambushes, raids, partisan link-up procedures, react to contact and infiltrations.

 

Throughout the entire course, "…displaying the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission" was always in the back of Rodriguez's mind but never more so than in the final phase.

 

"I conducted patrols in nothing but underwear, with no boots, while walking on azimuth through thorn filled brush, and rolled around in the thorns to fortify the body," said Rodriguez. "As crazy as it sounds, after a while, the body goes numb and no pain is felt."

 

"The mental change is that no matter what happens, no matter what task is given, no matter how impossible the task may seem, everything is possible if one can push through the pain and discomfort to accomplish the mission," said Rodriguez. "This is what makes a Kaibil, a unique soldier."

 

Rodriguez was one of 15 students to graduate from the course.

 

"I recommend this course to all who want to attend. However, you will go through very intense training that may be considered inhumane by others but this is the kind of training a Soldier needs to be prepared for combat," said Rodriguez. "I see the world in a whole new way, and have learned what my body is capable of accomplishing with minimal equipment, food, water and support from outside sources."

 

Rodriguez is no stranger to taking on the tough military schools.

 

He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger Course Jumpmaster Course, Advanced Leader Course, Pathfinder Course, Long Range Surveillance Leader Course, Javelin Training Devices, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course, Combatives Level 1 and 2, the Warrior Leader Course, Emergency Medicine Technologist Basic Course, the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program and the Basic Airborne Course.

 

Rodriguez has deployed six times in support of the War on Terror with four tours to Iraq and two to Afghanistan for a total of 23 months deployed.

 

Rodriguez is a native of Penitas, Texas and has been in the U.S. Army since May 2005.

SOCSOUTH and Jamaican partners participate in training exchange
Port Royal, Jamaica September 25, 2012

Jamaican Army soldiers from the Jamaica Defense Force provide security as their fellow soldiers Jamaican Army soldiers from the Jamaica Defense Force provide security as their fellow soldiers complete a scenario-based boat interdiction exercise with Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) members assigned to Special Boat Team (SBT) 22, in support of Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH), Sept. 25 along the coast of Port Royal, Jamaica. (Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs)



Located in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is surrounded by beautiful beaches and tropical weather making it a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.

However, the small island, like much of the region between North and South America, is a potential location for illicit traffickers to use as a transit point to move illegal drugs across the region and into the United States. It is a concern for many across the island nation who see this activity as a threat to their security.

So when Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) assigned to Special Boat Team (SBT) – 22, in support of Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH), and members of the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School, better known as NAVSCIATTS, participated in a Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) event in Jamaica during the month of September. Members of the Jamaica Defense Forces, simply known as the JDF, welcomed the group of American sailors.

The primary focus of this month-long JCET for the Stennis, Miss.- based special boat team and NAVSCIATTS personnel was to gain regional knowledge and improve their teaching abilities while training with members of the JDF.

JCETs also benefit U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) because they allow SOF personnel to train in ally nations, like Jamaica, and hone their military tactics and skills in unfamiliar settings, while also improving bilateral relations and interoperability with other militaries.

For the JDF, this event also proved to be helpful. Although the JDF’s size is small compared to other nations across the Western Hemisphere, their military continues to expand into a well-rounded force with multiple skill sets, regardless of branch of service, in an effort to deter illicit traffickers from its borders and waterways.

During this event, more than 20 Jamaican servicemembers, mostly from the Army and Coast Guard, saw this JCET as a great opportunity to train and enhance their maritime operations and boat maintenance skills with U.S. servicemembers. “It is hard for the [Jamaican] Coast Guard to be tasked to do everything and we can do some of these operations and take the load off of them,” said a Jamaican Army officer, who serves as a troop commander. “We see ourselves in the future being able to do more operations and interdictions in the water.”

As part of SOCSOUTH’s Theater Security Cooperation program, these JCET programs enable partner nations to increase their capacity to conduct security operations. SOCSOUTH, based in Homestead, Fla., is responsible for all U.S. Special Operations activities in the Caribbean, Central and South America; it serves as a component for U.S. Southern Command.

For U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Timothy Piccin, who serves as the SOCSOUTH country officer for Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, this JCET is vital in the continued training of all U.S. Naval forces working in the region but also serves a essential piece for the development of the JDF, specifically its maritime capabilities due to its geographically location.

“This program allows our [U.S.] forces to get excellent training in the region and it serves as a great benefit for our partner nations to increase their military capacity in a very unique platform where exchanging tactics and procedures benefit everyone involved,” he said. “From boat maintenance procedures to tactical training, this event allows everyone to train and learn from each other.”

During the first few days of the JCET, members assigned to NAVSCIATTS trained with their Jamaican counterparts on basic watercraft maintenance skills and procedures. The maintenance portion of the JCET ended with members of the JDF breaking down a boat engine piece by piece in order to learn standard boat engine components and putting it back together.

The final two weeks of the JCET focused more on military tactics using boats as SWCC personnel trained with their Jamaican partners on specialize techniques, such as Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure, a maritime boarding action designed to capture hostile vessels and high value targets onboard a water craft. The U.S. Sailors also instructed members of the JDF on boat interdiction and extraction techniques, boat handling maneuvers on small tactical boats, long-range navigation and close-quarters defense.   For SWCC members assigned to SBT 22, this JCET allowed them to learn new skills in a variety of different areas outside of their normal routine.

“This event is very important for us because it takes us away from our comfort zone and presents us with a different challenge,” said the U.S. Special Boat Operator Chief in charge of the JCET. “We typically operate in rivers so working with the JDF in the open ocean really put us in conditions we are not use to, but it helped us learn how to work in those environments.”

For the SWCC members, this JCET was also valuable because they built a strong partnership with members of the JDF.

“We have a great relationship with these guys, and we have learn a lot from them,” said the Special Boat Operator Chief. “From working out together to talking about our experiences, it has been great working with them.”

JDF members reflected those same sentiments following a small closing ceremony where each participate received a certificate of training from their American counterparts.

“I wish the training was longer, but they covered a little bit of everything and it is now our job to not lose what we learned and stay current,” said the Jamaica troop commander. “It was really great working with [SBT-22] them, and I wish we could have this type of event twice a year. We clicked right away and it was really fun to be with them.”

Piccin hopes to replicate this experience with a similar event sometime next year.  “There is no doubt this exchange greatly benefits both the U.S. and JDF in order to learn new techniques to protect the region from the threat of transnational organized crime,” he said. “We hope to continue to work with our JDF partners and are planning to do this again next year.”

SOCSOUTH helps local church refurbish roof
Florida City, Fla. September 27, 2012

From left to right: Special Operations Command South servicemembers, Air Force Tech Sgt. Greg Sowinski and Army Lt. Col. Stewart Mason, take off old roof shingles from St. Matthews Baptist Church in Florida City, Fla. From left to right: Special Operations Command South servicemembers, Air Force Tech Sgt. Greg Sowinski and Army Lt. Col. Stewart Mason, take off old roof shingles from St. Matthews Baptist Church in Florida City, Fla., Sept. 18, as part of a weeklong project to help fix the deteriorated roof. SOCSOUTH was one of several organizations involved in helping repair the 60-year-old building as part of the community outreach program where military members assigned to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., help residents in the surrounding areas. (Department of Defense photo by Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs Office)



For over 60 years, the St. Matthews Baptist Church has been a part of the Florida City community where residents have gathered for neighborhood events and Sunday morning religious services.

However, years of rain and wear and tear have left the church’s roof damaged with large holes, rotting wood and deteriorated roof shingles. It was a big concern for the church’s owner Elijah Dukes, whose family has owned the building since the 1950’s.

So it was a big surprise for Dukes when members of the Homestead Military Affairs Committee recruited the help of servicemembers assigned to Special Operations Command South, 482nd Fighter Wing, Homestead Job Corps, and other local business and organizations to help fix the badly damaged roof.

During the week-long roofing project, SOCSOUTH servicemembers helped improve the damaged area by removing the old wood, felt and shingles with brand new materials. Many of the roofing supplies were donated by Lowes Home Improvement store in Homestead, Fla.

Army Lt. Col. Stewart Mason, SOCSOUTH Headquarters Commandant, said it’s important for military leaders across the base to look outside of their military jobs and set an example for others to follow by helping community members in the local area.

Elijah Dukes, whose family has owned the building since the 1950’s, rolls out new roof felt for installation on the St. Matthews Baptist Church in Florida City, Fla., Sept. 18, as part of a weeklong project to help fix the deteriorated roof. SOCSOUTH was one of several organizations involved in helping repair the 60-year-old building as part of the community outreach program where military members assigned to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., help residents of the surrounding areas.(Department of Defense photo by Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs Office)

“As leaders, it’s important that we not only talk about action, but we go out and actually make it happen. It’s not just military activities that we need to be a part of,” he said.

Mason also spoke about the personal gratification he gets when doing projects such as this one.

For me personally, I enjoy doing things in the community and enjoy doing things for other people. I’m giving forward,” he said.

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Greg Sowinski, who also works at SOCSOUTH, spoke about how project like this help give the military a good image across the local community.

Army Lt. Col. Stewart Mason removes old roof felt and shingles from the St. Matthews Baptist Church in Florida City, Fla. Army Lt. Col. Stewart Mason removes old roof felt and shingles from the St. Matthews Baptist Church in Florida City, Fla., Sept. 18, as part of a weeklong project to help fix the deteriorated roof. Mason said it is important for military leaders stationed at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., to get involved in helping those within the base’s surrounding communities. (Department of Defense photo by Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs Office)

“I like when people see us [military members] out helping others in the community because it shows us in a different light where most people don’t typical see us in on a daily basis. For Dukes, the help on his building couldn’t have come at a better time.

“This project was really needed for some time and this group of people here are a godsend. All that I can say is ‘thank you’ and that is coming from a sincere heart,” said a teary-eyed Dukes. “What these groups of people have done here in two days would have taken me five or six years, and it was something I didn’t expect. I am full of joy!”

Mason hopes projects like this are the first of many in which the command can get involved in throughout the community.

“As a command, we need to be more involved in our community because we are helping our neighbors and it helps us be better-rounded individuals.”

St. Matthews Baptist Church is located on the corner of Lucy St. and 12th Ave. in Florida City, Fla.

SOCSOUTH participates in annual PANAMAX exercise
HOMESTEAD ARB, Fla. August 10, 2012

U.S. Army Lt. Col Ricardo Bautista, an operations officer assigned to Special Operations Command South, briefs foreign military officials from nine countries during a morning update brief during the start of the annual military exercise dubbed “PANAMAX” at Homestead Air Reseve Base, Fla., Aug 10. U.S. Army Lt. Col Ricardo Bautista, an operations officer assigned to Special Operations Command South, briefs foreign military officials from nine countries during a morning update brief during the start of the annual military exercise dubbed “PANAMAX” at Homestead Air Reseve Base, Fla., Aug 10. The intent of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)-sponsored exercise is to train in a variety of responses in order to protect and guarantee safe passage of commercial traffic through the Panama Canal. (Department of Defense photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South)



Servicemembers assigned to Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH), along with representatives from nine countries, came together to support this year’s PANAMAX exercise at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Aug 10.

The intent of the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM)-sponsored annual military exercise is to train in a variety of responses, in coordination with the governments of Panama and Colombia, in order to protect and guarantee safe passage of commercial traffic through the Panama Canal, ensure its neutrality, and respect national sovereignty.

As the special operations component for USSOUTHCOM, SOCSOUTH must be prepared to deploy anywhere in the Caribbean, Central or South America at a moment’s notice in the event of a crisis requiring special operations capabilities.

Army Lt. Col. Ricardo Bautista, who serves as one of SOCSOUTH’s lead operations officers for this exercise, explained the importance of the exercise as a platform which allows military and security forces from different nations to work together so they can share their practices and experiences in order to defend the Panama Canal.

“Military exercises like PANAMAX help us exercise our mission essential tasks in the event we have to deploy to the region in support of securing the Panama Canal and ensuring commercial commerce is unaffected,” he said. “PANAMAX is also important because we work with our partner nations in order to keep good interoperability with them through mutual cooperation. It is very important to keep these relationships strong.”

Foreign officials from Panama and Colombia monitor their computers during the scenario-based military exercise dubbed “PANAMAX” at Homestead Air Reseve Base, Fla., Aug 10. Foreign officials from Panama and Colombia monitor their computers during the scenario-based military exercise dubbed “PANAMAX” at Homestead Air Reseve Base, Fla., Aug 10. The annual multinational exercise allows several international forces to train together in a variety of responses in order to protect and guarantee safe passage of commercial traffic through the Panama Canal. This year SOCSOUTH is working with military members from Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Peru. (Department of Defense photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South)

This year, SOCSOUTH is working with military members from Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Peru.

Not only does these exercises contribute to improving interoperability between multiple nations, but it also help build the capabilities to plan and execute complex multinational operations no matter what the situation.

“As Special Operations, we have to be ready to deter any acts by hostile forces or groups,” said Colombian Lt. Col. Eduardo Charry-Mora, who is serving as the senior special operations foreign officer for PANAMAX. “This exercise allows us to train together and give us the capacity to work together in a combined planning group. By getting to know each other, we can build relationships for years to come.”

SOCSOUTH is a sub-unified command of U.S. Southern Command and serves as the functional component for all special operation missions deployed throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America regions. SOCSOUTH is responsible for the planning and execution of all Special Operations Forces (SOF) within U.S. Southern Command's AOR to include: U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets), U.S. Naval Special Warfare Units (SEALs), U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force Special Operations Aviation, Civil Affairs and Military Information Support Teams. Typical SOCSOUTH Headquarters deployments include a rapid response for contingencies, exercises, and other missions, as directed by Commander, U.S. Southern Command.

Airborne Exercise Strengthens Partnership
SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras July 30, 2012

SOTO CANO AB, Honduras – A U.S. Army paratrooper exits a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a combined airborne exercise at Joint Task Force-Bravo. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Diaz) SOTO CANO AB, Honduras – A U.S. Army paratrooper exits a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a combined airborne exercise at Joint Task Force-Bravo. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Diaz)



U.S. Army and Honduran army paratroopers participated in a combined airborne exercise, July 18.

The exercise was designed to sharpen the paratroopers' airborne proficiency and strengthen the partnership between the two militaries.

Paratroopers jumped from CH-47 Chinook helicopters flown by pilots and aircrews 1st Bn, 228th Aviation Regiment

Joint Task Force-Bravo is one of two task forces under United States Southern Command. Located at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, JTF-Bravo operates a forward, all-weather day and night C-5-capable air base.

In cooperation with partner nations, JTF-Bravo organizes multilateral exercises, develops capacity, supports counter narcoterrorism activities, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and promotes regional cooperation and security in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

SOTO CANO AB, Honduras – A Honduran paratrooper has a friendly conversation with a U.S. Army paratrooper as they both wait to load onto a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a combined airborne exercise at Joint Task Force-Bravo. The exercise was designed to sharpen the paratroopers’ airborne proficiency and strengthen the partnership between the two militaries. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Diaz) SOTO CANO AB, Honduras – A Honduran paratrooper has a friendly conversation with a U.S. Army paratrooper as they both wait to load onto a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a combined airborne exercise at Joint Task Force-Bravo. The exercise was designed to sharpen the paratroopers’ airborne proficiency and strengthen the partnership between the two militaries. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Diaz)

SOTO CANO AB, Honduras – Honduran paratroopers stand ready to load a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a combined airborne exercise at Joint Task Force-Bravo. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Diaz) SOTO CANO AB, Honduras – Honduran paratroopers stand ready to load a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a combined airborne exercise at Joint Task Force-Bravo. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Diaz)

SOTO CANO AB, Honduras – A U.S. Army paratrooper guides fellow Honduran paratroopers onto a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a combined airborne exercise at Joint Task Force-Bravo. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Diaz) SOTO CANO AB, Honduras – A U.S. Army paratrooper guides fellow Honduran paratroopers onto a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a combined airborne exercise at Joint Task Force-Bravo. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Diaz)

SOTO CANO AB, Honduras – Honduran army paratroopers stand up and hold the static line in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, listening closely to their jumpmaster’s commands during a combined airborne exercise at Joint Task Force-Bravo. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Diaz) SOTO CANO AB, Honduras – Honduran army paratroopers stand up and hold the static line in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, listening closely to their jumpmaster’s commands during a combined airborne exercise at Joint Task Force-Bravo. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Diaz)

SOTO CANO AB, Honduras – U.S. Army paratroopers hold the static line in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a combined airborne exercise at Joint Task Force-Bravo. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Diaz) SOTO CANO AB, Honduras – U.S. Army paratroopers hold the static line in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a combined airborne exercise at Joint Task Force-Bravo. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Diaz)

U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs Soldiers supports a MEDCAP in Honduras
SANTA RITA, Honduras July 24, 2012

Members of the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion set up a pharmacy with soldiers of the 14th Infantry Battalion of the Honduran Army’s 105th Infantry Brigade Members of the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion set up a pharmacy with soldiers of the 14th Infantry Battalion of the Honduran Army’s 105th Infantry Brigade during a recent Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) in the town of Santa Rita, Honduras. The U.S. CA unit, based out of Perrine, Fla., is currently deployed to Central America as part of a Civil Affairs Engagement Program in support of Special Operations Command South. During the MEDCAP, more than 8,300 people were in attendance to receive free medical care. (Photo courtesy of the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion)



A U.S. Army Reserve civil affairs team assisted members of the Honduran Army, Honduran governmental and non-governmental organizations to bring medical aid to the town of Santa Rita during a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) June 30.

The Soldiers, who are assigned to the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion, based out of Perrine, Fla., are part of the Civil Affairs Engagement Program (CAEP), run by U.S. Southern Command, Special Operations Command South and the 350th Civil Affairs Command. The team worked with the 14th Infantry Battalion of the Honduran Army’s 105th Infantry Brigade to coordinate the event, said Sgt. 1st Class David Everage, of Pensacola, Fla.

“One of our goals here is to enhance their Civil Affairs capabilities,” Everage said. “They [Honduran Army] understand that this is their opportunity to interact with the local people. We’ve been teaching our counterparts about our military values – like honor and respect – and they show them in their interactions with the public.”

The team, which includes Sgt. 1st Class David Everage, Sgt. Omar Ortiz, of Fort Meyers, Fla., Spc. Chris Hurley, of Plant City, Fla., and team leader Capt. Benjamin Santiago, of Louisville, Ky., began the yearlong mission in October. In that time, they’ve put together several events, which helped thousands of Hondurans in dozens of remote and often underserved communities across the Central American nation.

“It’s an honor to be serving in the U.S Army Reserves, and go on a special missions like these, bringing relief to the disadvantaged in areas filled with poverty and crime,” said Ortiz, who has a Honduran heritage.

Sgt. 1st Class David Everage interacts with local children during a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) in the town of Santa Rita, Honduras. Sgt. 1st Class David Everage interacts with local children during a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) in the town of Santa Rita, Honduras. Everage, a native of Pensacola, Fla., serves as the non-commissioned officer in charge for the Civil Affairs team currently on a one-year deployment to Honduras. The Civil Affairs Soldiers supported the Honduran government during the MEDCAP were medical service were provided to more than 8,300 citizens living in the small town. (Photo courtesy of the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion)

Although each of the Soldiers is Civil Affairs-trained, all started their careers and have deployed in other career fields. Santiago, who had been deployed as a construction engineer and as a member of a military transition team during two deployments to Iraq, said that it enhances the team’s value.

“The idea in Civil Affairs is that each team member contributes unique skills, which make us more efficient and well rounded as a team.” Santiago said.

All of the team members have fully dedicated themselves to their mission. When Hurley joined the team in January, he didn’t speak any Spanish. As a medic, he wanted to make sure he did everything he could to communicate with his patients to ensure they got the best care possible.

“When I got here, I started studying Spanish two hours a night and taking classes online,” Hurley said. “Now, I’m almost fluent.”

The MEDCAP drew thousands of Hondurans to the local school from Santa Rita and surrounding communities where the assistance took place. Doctors were on hand to examine patients and distribute prescriptions at a pharmacy that the Civil Affairs team set up.

Members of the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion set up a pharmacy with soldiers of the 14th Infantry Battalion of the Honduran Army’s 105th Infantry Brigade U.S. Army Capt. Benjamin Santiago shows a local boy a paddle ball game during a recent Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) in the town of Santa Rita, Honduras. Santiago, a native of Louisville, Ky., serves as the team leader for the U.S. CA team. The unit, based out of Perrine, Fla., is currently on a one-year deployment in Honduras as part of a Civil Affairs Engagement Program in support of Special Operations Command South. During the MEDCAP, more than 8,300 people were in attendance to receive free medical care. Santiago says working with the Honduran military has been a rewarding relationship for the team.

MEDCAPs are organized to help a large group of people and it’s possible that over 10,000 people could show up in a single day said Hurley. During this event there were approximately 8,300 Hondurans in attendance.

Additionally, activities were conducted in unused school classrooms for people with families. The rooms were turned into beauty salons, barber shops and theaters for the day, so while parents were receiving their screenings and medical care, their families could stay in a safe and entertaining environment.

While on a mission, the team wears civilian clothing in order to show that they are only there to help the Honduran government and its people, Santiago said. Working with the Honduran military has been a rewarding relationship for the team.

“The Honduran military is always very receptive and happy to work with us,” Santiago said. “A lot of them have been through the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Bragg, N.C., so they look positively on Americans and we have created a great partnership.”

The team was especially happy to see the Honduran Department of Health participating, Everage said.

“That’s a great sign,” Everage said. “The more agencies that show up and work together, the more we know what we’re doing is working.”

SOCSOUTH and Uruguayan build bonds through training exchange
Homestead, Fla. July 9, 2012

For the fifth time in the history of EX FUERZAS COMANDO, Colombia has earned the title of Champion. Ecuador and Uruguay took second and third place. Established in 2004, this exercise is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) attached to Naval Special Warfare Group 4 (NSW4) work with their Uruguayan counter parts on vessel boarding techniques during a Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) event in Uruguay May 15 to June 15. Throughout the four weeks of training, they worked on honing their special tactics techniques in order to increase their ability to conduct missions more effectively. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Larry W. Carpenter Jr., USSOCOM Public Affairs)



In support of Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH), Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) attached to Naval Special Warfare Group 4 (NSW4), participated in a Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) event in Uruguay May 15 to June 15.

This was the first time a training event of this scope has been conducted with Uruguay and NSW in about 20 years. Although, there have been other, smaller training venues such as UNITAS, a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored naval exercise, within that time period.

These specialized U.S. military personnel had the opportunity to sharpen their skills and swap techniques during the month-long JCET with the Uruguayan Sección de Reconocimiento (SECRON) of Fusileros Navales (FUSNA), Uruguayan Coast Guard and Special Operations Police. During the four weeks of training, they worked on honing their special tactics techniques in order to increase their ability to conduct missions more effectively. By working together, they were able to learn from each other and function as a more proficient unit.

“We hope that they go back to their respective units and they show their guys what we trained on, or at least the basics so that everybody has a working knowledge of what everyone does and that way they can operate better,” said a Petty Officer Special Operations Medic.

According to the executive officer of the FUSNA, the main goal he wanted was that his men gain a better grasp of how to perform counter illicit trafficking, which is a big part of their mission.

Working with the FUSNA and SECRON guys has been awesome, they are eager and hard working,” said the Special Operations Medic.

Members of the special operations forces from the United States participate in the physical training portion of Fuerzas Comando 2012 at the Colombian National Training Center in Tolemaida, June 6, 2012. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) attached to Naval Special Warfare Group 4 (NSW4) work with their Uruguayan counter parts on water navigation skills during a Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) event in Uruguay May 15 to June 15. This was the first time a training event of this scope has been conducted with Uruguay and NSW in about 20 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Larry W. Carpenter, Jr., USSOCOM Public Affairs)

All participants received the opportunity to learn from this experience by being able to share information with each other and learn from each other’s real-world experiences.

“It’s a big ego boost for us to be able to do this with the Americans and it’s good for morale,” said a SECRON boat operator. “I would like to see something become of this, so that it doesn’t end right here, so we can improve our capacity in the future.”

The training included a three-day class on tactical combat casualty care, water navigation techniques, vessel boarding techniques, and infiltration and extraction methods. It concluded with a Field Training Exercise (FTX) in the form of a simulated mission, which continued the exchange of training techniques and mutual enhancement of military professionalism. In addition, the FTX was observed by members of the Uruguayan Department of Defense and Congress, who stated they were very impressed with the caliber of training.

JCETs are frequently conducted by SOCSOUTH throughout the Caribbean and Central and South Americas at the request of partner nations in order to enhance bilateral relations and interoperability through military-to-military contacts and are a valuable tool in the command’s Theater Security Cooperation program.

Colombia earns Fuerzas Comando 2012 championship title
TOLEMAIDA, Colombia July 3, 2012

For the fifth time in the history of EX FUERZAS COMANDO, Colombia has earned the title of Champion. Ecuador and Uruguay took second and third place. Established in 2004, this exercise is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually.

For the fifth time in the history of EX FUERZAS COMANDO, Colombia has earned the title of Champion. Ecuador and Uruguay took second and third place. Established in 2004, this exercise is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Vann, 107th MPAD)



After eight long days of strenuous and arduous tasks, Exercise Fuerzas Comando came to an end during the final closing ceremony June 14. For the fifth time in the history of the exercise, Colombia earned the coveted title of Champion. Ecuador took second place and Uruguay took third place.

Established in 2004, Fuerzas Comando is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special operations forces skills competition and senior leader seminar, which is conducted annually in the Western Hemisphere. This year, Fuerzas Comando was sponsored by the Colombian Army and held at the Colombian National Training Center at Fort Tolemaida. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise.

The Colombian Minister of Defense, Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno, kicked off Fuerzas Comando 2012 with an inspirational speech to the troops and special operations forces with words that specifically recognized the multinational cooperation between all the participants.

“I am glad to welcome many countries who are friends of Colombia today; countries that have contributed not only to our training, but have also helped us counter the threats facing our nation,” said Pinzon.

This year’s competition consisted of military and police forces from 21 countries: the Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States and Uruguay.

“Invitations are sent to partner nations in the U.S. Southern Command’s and U.S. Northern Command’s area of responsibility,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Dale W. Bopp, lead planner for SOCSOUTH’s Joint Training and Exercise section “The 21 countries participating this year, eagerly accepted the invitation to participate in the events.”

Members of the special operations forces from the United States participate in the physical training portion of Fuerzas Comando 2012 at the Colombian National Training Center in Tolemaida, June 6, 2012. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually.

Members of the special operations forces from the United States participate in the physical training portion of Fuerzas Comando 2012 at the Colombian National Training Center in Tolemaida, June 6, 2012. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Vann, 107th MPAD)

Nations participating in the competition provided a judge, a five-person ‘assault’ team and a two–person sniper team to compete in this spirit of camaraderie. The eight-day contest provided the toughest mental and physical test of special operations skills, tactics, techniques and procedures, which included aquatic, strength, and conditioning contests principally employed in special operations missions.

“The team leaders of today who compete amongst each other may very well be the same individuals who return years later to take part in the Distinguished Visitor Program and Senior Leader Seminar, not as competitors, but as partners,” said Bopp. “With that, we can utilize the friendships forged years ago to meet the challenges of the day.”

Exercise Fuerzas Comando 2012 spanned eight days of intense competition. The events included a physical fitness event, rifle and pistol qualifications, distance and FBI “T” shoot, sniper stalk, road march, critical tasks, snaps and movers, a field shoot, obstacle course, combined assault, aquatic event, stress tests, and night shoots. There was also an multinational airborne operation on the last day, which is not an annual competition, but incorporated to help build upon the friendships that were forged throughout the exercise.

“The focus of these competitions is to test the abilities of special forces soldiers. The participants will be tested on things like marksmanship and physical fitness, which are an important part of the training for any special forces soldier,” said Colombian Lt. Col. Juan Carlos Vargas Carvajal, operations officer for the Colombian Joint Special Forces Command and officer-in-charge for the Fuerzas Comando 2012 events.

“After eight days of competition, the participants are physically exhausted,” said Maj. Juan Carlos Blanco of the Colombian Army. “This event really puts to the test the competitors’ physical and mental condition.”

Another main aspect of Fuerzas Comando was the Senior Leaders Seminar, which was held in Bogota. The seminar is designed for military leaders to exchange ideas and to improve military-to-military relations and discuss regional issues, such as countering transnational organized crime.

A member of the U.S. special operations forces competes in the rifle qualification event for Fuerzas Comando, June 7, 2012, at the Colombian National Training Center. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually.

A member of the U.S. special operations forces competes in the rifle qualification event for Fuerzas Comando, June 7, 2012, at the Colombian National Training Center. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Karen Kozub, 107th MPAD)

“Fuerzas Comando is an important opportunity for us to demonstrate the role the U.S. plays in linking special operations forces in the region and improving our capabilities and sharing ideas on how to face common threats like dangerous non-state actors,” said Navy Rear Adm. Thomas L. Brown, Commander, Special Operations Command South.

The 9th annual Fuerzas Comando event was aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region.

“At the end of the day, especially in special operations, it’s all about relationships and trust and confidence and understanding each other’s perspective and situation,” said Brown. “It’s all about those relationships and knowing enough about each other to know where the areas of cooperation are that we need to reinforce.”

The airborne operation signaled the end of the competition. One paratrooper from Special Operations Command South, jumped for the first time since graduating from airborne school.

“It was an awesome experience, especially jumping from the back of the bird,” said Sgt. Samuel Diaz. “The view was great!”

Exercise Fuerzas Comando 2013 is scheduled to take place in Chile next summer.

SOCSOUTH assists Paraguayan military and police provide free medical care to rural residents

HOMESTEAD, Fla. July 3, 2012

 

4th Infantry Division, Paraguayan Military, provides security as hundreds wait to be seen by medical professionals during a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP), June 2 in Arroyito, District of Horqueta, Department of Concepcion, Paraguay. The 4th ID provided security throughout the MEDCAP. Through the command’s Theater Security Cooperation Program, special operations Soldiers work closely with their partner nation counterparts

 

Story by Kelsey L. Campbell, SOCSOUTH and Air Force Master Sgt. Larry Carpenter, SOCOM

Photos by Air Force Master Sgt. Larry Carpenter, SOCOM

 

With the advice and assistance of Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) Civil Affairs planners, Paraguayan Military Civil Affairs soldiers teamed up with Paraguayan National Police units to provide medical attention and education to rural Paraguayans June 2-3. The two security services provided medical care to over 2,400 rural residents at the ’12 de Abril’ school, Arroyito, District of Horqueta, Department of Concepcion.

The area is only accessible by dirt and mud roads, providing no access to ambulances and little patrolling for National Police. The local residents had little to no past positive exposure to municipal or national security forces operating in their district. The Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) provided the opportunity for the military and police to serve a vulnerable population, develop rapport between the two partner nation services, and build community relations.

“Projects like these are important in Paraguay because of the vast under governed parts of the country which are taken advantage of by either drug trafficking organizations or violent extremist organizations in the region,” said a Sgt. 1st Class Hansel Delgadillo, a SOCSOUTH Civil Affairs planner. “These programs portray a positive unified front on behalf of the local government, the national police and military in an area where residents routinely protested against the local government and had little to no trust in the police because of perceived corruption.”

General Gonzalez, the Paraguayan 4th Army Division commander, oversaw the entire military-police operation in Arroyito. He noted that due to the community outreach, this was the first instance his troops could fully operate in Arroyito.

The military and police brought a group of doctors, surgeons, dentists, nurses and dental technicians to provide medical services to the community members. The Ministry of Public Health deployed a mobile dental clinic unit for the event. Rural residents received treatment for a total of 9,379 different medical cases in the areas of internal medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, ophthalmology, dentistry, and outpatient surgery. In addition, laboratory and pharmacy services were provided.

“The medical staff was very attentive and we are very thankful for their services,” said a woman who attended the event. “This is the first time we have received this type of treatment. The hospitality has been great, along with the treatment and excellent service.”

SOCSOUTH Civil Affairs planners received a $70,000 operating budget from the U.S. Southern Command Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP). The funds were used to pay for medical equipment and prescriptions donated to the Paraguayan government for the MEDCAP, as well as school supplies that were donated to the ’12 de Abril’ school and medical supplies donated to the local Arroyito clinic.

Arturo Rene Urbieto Cuevas, the Mayor of Horqueta, was ecstatic to have the military and police collaborate to provide needed medical screening and treatments to the residents of his district. To aid with the operation, he donated 100kg of meat for the meals that were served to the attendees.

“I’m thankful for the training the U.S. has provided us and I’m going to teach the police the same type of training so that they can build up their capability,” said Col. Monges, leader of the Paraguayan Military Civil Affairs directorate.

In the past, the police and military have not always presented a unified front. In the recent past, however, the military civil affairs and National Police have collaborated on civil registrations throughout Paraguay. This MEDCAP, named Plan Nepohano 17, was the first full partnership between the military and police for community medical outreach. Together, they provided medical screening and treatment, security for the event, transportation for rural residents, and provided a lunch meal both days of the operation.

“I’m very thankful and like the joint effort of everyone working together so we could answer the call for all the necessities that are out here,” said a general surgeon with the National Police’s FOPE (Fuerzas de Operaciones de Policias Especiales). “It feels good. It’s a good opportunity to work with another force.”

In addition to the medical care rendered, representatives from the Ministry of Justice and Work were present to register rural residents into the national database, update and issue identification cards, and register firearms. For many residents, this was the first instance of receiving a Paraguayan ID card.

In addition to sending the military and police medical staff to Arroyito, MEDCAP staff provided a shuttle, transporting residents from the outlying rural townships to receive the free medical services. Most residents of the Horqueta area live well below the poverty line. They are subsistence farmers, selling just enough vegetables or livestock to pay for gasoline for their motorcycles. Many families do not own cars and are not able to make regular trips to metropolitan areas for medical attention.

“Without them coming here, we would have to travel to Concepcion or Horqueta and we don’t really have the means to do that,” said a local elderly woman. “Sometimes when we go there, they do not give us medication, so this is big for us and we are very happy about it.”

“The objective is for the people to gain trust and for there to be a dialogue, for them to get closer in the relationship between the people and the police department,” said the Chief of the National Police’s Rural Operations Unit (Comandos de Operaciones Rurales). “It’s clear that when we talked to the communities, it’s about gaining their trust and letting them know that the government and police are here to support them.”

Commissioner Lara, the Chief of the National Police’s COR unit said, “The working relationship between the military and the National Police is coming along really well, they have invited me to come along and be a part of future MEDCAPs.”

“Working with our partner nation Civil Affairs counterparts was an incredible experience,” said Delgadillo. “Their long hours of work before, during and after an operation to ensure all aspects of the mission is covered and executed to standard makes our job in Paraguay that much easier.”

SOCSOUTH Civil Affairs planners are already coordinating the concept of operations for three more MEDCAPs to be conducted in collaboration with the Paraguayan military and National Police in the near future.

120603-F-ZU262-001.jpg

A Paraguayan military doctor performs a dental evaluation on a local citizen during a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP), June 2 in Arroyito, District of Horqueta, Department of Concepcion, Paraguay. Rural residents received treatment for a total of 9,379 different medical cases in the areas of internal medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, ophthalmology, dentistry, and outpatient surgery. (U.S. photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Larry Carpenter, Special Operations Command Public Affairs)

 

120603-F-ZU262-002.jpg 

A Paraguayan military orthodontist shapes a denture prosthetic for a patient during a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP), June 3 in Arroyito, District of Horqueta, Department of Concepcion, Paraguay. Rural residents received treatment for a total of 9,379 different medical cases in the areas of internal medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, ophthalmology, dentistry, and outpatient surgery. (U.S. photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Larry Carpenter, Special Operations Command Public Affairs)

 

120603-F-ZU262-004.jpg

A Paraguayan military ophthalmologist examines the patient for an eyeglass fitting during a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP), June 2 in Arroyito, District of Horqueta, Department of Concepcion, Paraguay. Rural residents received treatment for a total of 9,379 different medical cases in the areas of internal medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, ophthalmology, dentistry, and outpatient surgery. (U.S. photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Larry Carpenter, Special Operations Command Public Affairs)

 

(ABOVE)

4th Infantry Division, Paraguayan Military, provides security as hundreds wait to be seen by medical professionals during a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP), June 2 in Arroyito, District of Horqueta, Department of Concepcion, Paraguay. The 4th ID provided security throughout the MEDCAP. Through the command’s Theater Security Cooperation Program, special operations Soldiers work closely with their partner nation counterparts in order for them to better protect their borders and increase their capacity to conduct civic action programs such as the MEDCAPs. (U.S. photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Larry Carpenter, Special Operations Command Public Affairs)

 

120603-F-ZU262-006.jpg 

Paraguayan Army medics intake patient information during the initial consultation in order to be seen by the medical staff during a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP), June 2 in Arroyito, District of Horqueta, Department of Concepcion, Paraguay. Rural residents received treatment for a total of 9,379 different medical cases in the areas of internal medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, ophthalmology, dentistry, and outpatient surgery. (U.S. photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Larry Carpenter, Special Operations Command Public Affairs)

 

120603-F-ZU262-008.jpg

During a 2-day Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP), hundreds stood in line on June 2-3, in Arroyito, District of Horqueta, Department of Concepcion, Paraguay in order to be seen by medical professionals and to obtain medical treatment. Rural residents received treatment for a total of 9,379 different medical cases in the areas of internal medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, ophthalmology, dentistry, and outpatient surgery. Through the command’s Theater Security Cooperation Program, special operations Soldiers work closely with their partner nation counterparts in order for them to better protect their borders and increase their capacity to conduct civic action programs such as the MEDCAPs. (U.S. photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Larry Carpenter, Special Operations Command)

Fuerzas Comando physical fitness event

TOLEMAIDA, Colombia  June 7, 2012

120606-A-WK843-714.JPG

Competitors from the Dominican Republic cheer on their teammates , June 6, 2012, as they compete in the pull-up portion of the physical fitness event during Fuerzas Comando 2012 at the Colombian National Training Center. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise.

120606-A-UC781-080.JPG

A member of the special operations forces from Belize competes in the push-up portion of the physical fitness event for Fuerzas Comando 2012 at the Colombian National Training Center, June 6, 2012. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise.

120606-A-UC781-236.JPG

Members of the special operations forces from the United States participate in the physical training portion of Fuerzas Comando 2012 at the Colombian National Training Center in Tolemaida, June 6, 2012. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise.

Fuerzas Comando 2012 weapons familiarization

TOLEMAIDA, Colombia  June 4, 2012

120604-A-UC781-052.JPG

A member of the special operations forces team from the Bahamas inspects his pistol prior to firing during weapons familiarization for Fuerzas Comando at the Colombian National Training Center, June 4, 2012. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise.

120604-A-GO008-001.JPG

A Peruvian special operations force team member tests the accuracy of his weapon in preparation for the shooting event at the Colombian National Training Center at Fort Tolemaida, June 4, 2012. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise.

120604-A-WK843-080.JPG

Special operations forces from several countries conduct weapons familiarization at the Colombian National Training Center at Fort Tolemaida, June 4, 2012. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise.

120604-A-WK843-165.JPG

A Comando from Guatemala assumes a comfortable shooting postion on the ground before firing his M-4 Carbine weapon June 4, 2012. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise.

Fuerzas Comando exercise promotes friendly competition, multi-national bonds

TOLEMAIDA, Colombia June 6, 2012The 9th annual Fuerzas Comando exercise kicked off today with an opening ceremony at the Colombian National Training Center on Fort Tolemaida.

“I am glad to welcome many countries here that are friends of Colombia,” said Colombian Minister of Defense Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno. “Countries that have contributed not only to our training, but have also helped us counter the threats facing our nations.”

Special operations forces from 21 countries are set to begin the eight-day military skills competition, which will test the participants’ physical strength and tactical abilities. The 17 grueling events are meant to challenge even the most skilled competitors in order to select the best of the elite military forces in the Western Hemisphere.

“Here on this parade field, there are probably several of the most prepared and the most capable men and women that we have to defend our nations from different aggressions and to protect our citizens,” he said.

The exercise is meant to build camaraderie and strengthen bonds between the countries involved to promote cooperation on common issues that affect the region. By training together, the participants gain a better understanding of each others’ tactics and capabilities, ensuring a more successful response to any situation.

 “What is most important is the spirit of cooperation among our countries, among our people,” said Pinzon Bueno. “Because only in this matter can we face those transnational threats.”

During the ceremony, the reigning champion, El Salvador, passed the Fuerzas Comando Cup to the host country. During the ceremony, every team took the competitor’s oath, which is a pledge to abide by the rules set for the exercise.

Colombia has won the competition four times in the past eight years. This year, two countries are competing for the first time – Canada and Guyana. This year is also significant because it is the first time a female competitor has participated in the competition.

The Fuerzas Comando exercise will also host a senior leader seminar, which will be held in Bogota for military leaders to exchange ideas and to improve military-to-military relations and discuss regional issues, such as countering transnational organized crime. Both events are meant to build relationships and strengthen ties between the participating nations.

“We are very proud to have these 21 countries joining us, exchanging experiences and knowledge, as well as strengthening the ties of friendship we have with the countries from throughout the Americas,” said Colombian Lt. Col. Juan Carlos Vargas Carvajal, operations officer for the Colombian Joint Special Forces Command.

“Fuerzas Comando is an important opportunity for us to demonstrate the role the U.S. plays in the region of linking the special operations forces and improving our capabilities and sharing ideas on how to face common threats like dangerous non-state actors,” said Navy Rear Adm. Thomas L. Brown II, commander of Special Operations Command South.

Fuerzas Comando is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored event for which Special Operations Command South is the executing command.

120606-A-GO008-062.JPG 

Proudly displaying their nations colors, 21 special operations forces teams stand ready on the parade field, June 6, 2012, during the opening ceremony at the Colombian National Training Center at Fort Tolemaida. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise

120606-A-WK843-029.JPG
Navy Rear Adm. Thomas L. Brown II, commander of Special Operations Command South (left) speaks with Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno at the Colombian National Training Center prior to the opening ceremony for Fuerzas Comando, June 6, 2012. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise.
Fuerzas Comando competition set to begin

TOLEMAIDA, Colombia  June 5, 2012 -- Special operations forces from 21 countries are poised to participate in Fuerzas Comando 2012 at the Colombian National Training Center in Tolemaida, June 6-14.

 

Special operations and commando forces from the Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States and Uruguay will participate in the exercise.

 

Opening ceremonies for the 9th annual Fuerzas Comando competition will kick off Wednesday.

Prior to the start of the competition, the countries spent four days validating the events and their equipment in preparation for the exercise. Teams had the opportunity to become familiar with each event.

 

The grueling eight-day competition will test the elite forces in areas such as physical fitness, weapons marksmanship, aquatic skills and tactical capabilities. The exercise concludes with a multi-national airborne operation and wing exchange ceremony on June 13, and the closing ceremony, June 14.

 

The senior leader seminar takes place simultaneously during the competition. This year, senior military and government officials from each country will gather in Bogota, June 11-14, to discuss countering transnational organized crime. The seminar is designed to improve military-to-military relations and provides a collaborative environment for regional military leaders.

 

Both the exercise and the seminar are aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the Western Hemisphere.

 

Colombia is the host of this year’s competition and seminar, which is sponsored by the United States Southern Command. Special Operations Command South, headquartered at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., is the lead U.S. executing command for the exercise. SOCSOUTH serves as the special operations component for U.S. Southern Command.

 

For more information and imagery of the competition, please visit:

 

SOCSOUTH facebook page at: www.facebook.com/USSOCSOUTH

Fuerzas Comando website at: www.fuerzascomando.com

Photos and video downloads available at: www.dvidshub.net/unit/107MPAD

120603-A-ZC950-012.JPG 

Members of the Panamanian team practice for the upcoming aquatic event at  Fuerzas Comando 2012 at the Colombian National Training Center, June 3, 2012. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise.

2120602-A-UC781_033.JPG 

A member of the United States team practices for the upcoming stress test portion of the Fuerzas Comando competition, June 2, 2012, at the Colombian National Training Center in Tolemaida. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise.

Colombian military, U.S Army Civil Affairs team up to help Colombian residents along remote countryside

Story and Photos by Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea

 

La Macarena, Colombia In the small, remote town of La Macarena, located 170 miles south of Bogota, residents lack medical services due to the town’s poverty stricken, rural location.

            Located in the department of Meta, similar to a state in the U.S., the town can only be accessed by air travel due to the lack of established roadways. La Macarena is surrounded by farms and isolated from several of the country’s main cities, causing the residents to experience a poor quality of life with little or no basic services.

            Because of these growing concerns for the people living in this town, the Colombian military, with support from a group of U.S. Army Civil Affairs Soldiers and a Bogota-based nongovernment medical organization called “Patrulla Aerea Civil Colombiana” or PAC, conducted a Surgical Civic Action Program April 27-28.       Commonly referred to as a SURGCAP, this type of event is carried out in order to improve the quality of life for these citizens and provide them with much needed medical services.

Colombian soldiers provided security around the area, while doctors and medical staff from PAC, with the assistance of U.S. CA Soldiers assigned to Company B, 98th Battalion, 95th CA Brigade (Airborne), currently under the operational control of Special Operations Command South, based at Homestead, Fla., provided free medical care and general surgery services to more than 1,000 Colombian citizens during the two-day event. SOCSOUTH is the special operations component for U.S. Southern Command.  

Throughout the two-day SURGCAP, hundreds of people waited in La Macarena’s only hospital and at a nearby school. Medical services included pediatrics, dermatology, general medicine, optometry, ophthalmology, dentistry, and general surgery to remove or correct ailments such as hernias, cataracts, and lipoma, which is a non-cancerous benign tumor that develops from fat cells in the body.

“When we plan events like this, we meet with our task force and members of the U.S. Embassy to determine which regions need these types of services,” said Colombian soldier, 1st Lt. Diego Mauricio Quintero Franco, who served as an operations officer during the event. “We are here to bring solutions to some of the health problems in this community and show the people we care about them.”

In order to put this event together, the Colombian military reached out to U.S. Civil Affairs Soldiers and officials at PAC to provide the medical experts and supplies to conduct this event for the people of La Macarena.

            PAC was founded more than 40 years ago by a group of search and rescue pilots. It is an organization of volunteer doctors and pilots who provide medical services to several secluded communities across Colombia. They have been working with the U.S. military for the past 10 years.

            Dr. Adriana Piquero Echeverri, who serves as the general director for PAC, said the organization’s mission is to provide medical care to those who need it in the most isolated locations in the country.

            “Our organization is based around helping people who don’t have access to this type of medical care across remote locations in the country,” she said. “We have a great relationship with the U.S. Civil Affairs members and without their support this medical event would have not been possible.”

            For Carlos Lopez, this event couldn’t have come at a better time. The middle-aged man has not been able to work because of pain and discomfort. Suffering from an inguinal hernia, which forms in a person’s lower abdomen, Lopez has been unable to work for three years. This SURGCAP was the answer he had been waiting for.

            “I am very happy for the services I am receiving,” he said. “We are very poor people, so we can use all the help we can get. I am grateful for this day and all those who are helping us.”   

U.S. troops assigned to the CA team, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C., have been working with their Colombian partners for the past eight months. The working relationship between the two has established two substantial benefits. The first is to help plan events like this and assist with the purchase of medicine and basic medical supplies. The second is to continue to enhance the capacity of the Colombian military and show them the positive effects of working with different government and civilian agencies.

“We have been working with our Colombian partners and planning this event for the past two months,” said the senior U.S. CA planner. “We as Civil Affairs have a huge role in coordinating all these efforts because we act as the link between all these different organizations. By working with the Colombian military, and several municipal government leaders, we can all come together and make events like this happen.”

             By the end of the two-day event, more than 1,000 citizens received medical screenings and more than 150 general surgeries were conducted by the medical volunteers working for PAC.

            Music and activities such as a bounce house and clowns were brought in to entertain many of the area children. The two-day event concluded by the daylong celebration of children, which is held at the town’s main square every year. Festivities included a parade of characters and several animated shows.

Despite the success of the SURGCAP in La Macarena, Colombian soldier 1st Lt. Quintero Franco said more work needs to be done in order to extend the provision of services on a more consistent basis. He hopes to continue to work with the U.S. government and its armed forces on future events.

            “The U.S. Embassy assists us with medicine for these events, and the support we receive from the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs is fundamental,” said Franco. “The relationship we have with the U.S. military and Soldiers with U.S. Civil Affairs is tremendous, and we hope to continue this work.”

 

120427-A-WP252-001.jpg

Colombian military members and U.S. Army Civil Affairs Soldiers assigned to Company B, 98th Battalion, 95th CA Brigade (Airborne) unload two tons of medical supplies and equipment off a Colombian military cargo plane in preparation for a two-day Surgical Civic Action Program (SURGCAP) April 27-28 in the small town of La Macarena, Colombia, located 170 miles south of Bogota. The SURGCAP, which was organized by the Colombian military with support from U.S. Army Civil Affairs Soldiers, helped provide medical services in such fields as pediatrics, dermatology, general medicine, optometry, ophthalmology, dentistry, and general surgery to more than 1,000 citizens living in the remote town. (Department of Defense photo by Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs) (Contributing reporter for the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.)    

120427-A-WP252-005.jpg

Dr. Catalina del Portillo, a volunteer ophthalmologist, prepares to conduct eye surgery on a person suffering from cataracts as part of a two-day Surgical Civic Action Program April 27-28 in the small town of La Macarena, Colombia, located 170 miles southeast of Bogota. Cataracts are an eye disease in which the clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy opaque, causing a decrease in vision (Department of Defense photo by Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs) (Contributing reporter for the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.)

 

 

120427-A-WP252-002.jpg

A Colombian soldier keeps an eye on his area while providing security along the river in La Macarena, Colombia. Members of the Colombian military provided security during the two-day Surgical Civic Action Program (SURGCAP) April 27-28 in the small town, located 170 miles south of Bogota. In an effort to assist its citizens living in the nation’s remote towns, the Colombian military organized this two-day SURGCAP April 27-28 with support from U.S. Army Civil Affairs Soldiers and “Patrulla Aerea Civil Colombiana” or PAC. (Department of Defense photo by Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, Special Operations Command South Public Affairs) (Contributing reporter for the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.) 

 

 

120427-A-WP252-008.jpg

Dr. Diego A. Rodriguez, a volunteer ophthalmologist, uses a slit lamp to check the eyes of an elderly woman as part of a two-day Surgical Civic Action Program April 27-28 in the small town of La Macarena, Colombia, located 170 miles southeast of Bogota. The ophthalmologist was one of 30 volunteers who gave his time to “Patrulla Aerea Civil Colombiana” or PAC, a Bogota-based nongovernment medical organization that provides medical services to several remote communities across Colombia. 

 

Fuerzas Comando 12 MOU Signing

HOMESTEAD, Fla. April 24, 2012

 

Navy Rear Adm. Thomas L. Brown, the commander of Special Operations Command South, shakes hands with Colombian Lt. Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez, the commander of the Colombian Special Operations Forces, after the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Fuerzas Comando 2012. The signing of the MOU finalized a week-long conference in which senior planners from both SOCSOUTH and the Colombian military worked together in order to finalize all coordination efforts for this year's Fuerzas Comando exercise. The exercise is set to take place from June 6-14 at the Colombian National Training Center base in Tolemaida, Colombia.

Fuerzas Comando 12

Chilean Delegation visits SOCSOUTH
HOMESTEAD, Fla. April 17, 2012
 

Navy Rear Adm. Thomas L. Brown speaks with members of a Chilean delegation during a visit to SOCSOUTH on April 11 to discuss upcoming military engagements and training objectives between the two nations.

Chilean Delegation visits SOCSOUTH

SOCSOUTH Welcomes new senior enlisted advisor

by Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez
482nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/7/2012 - HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. -- Special Operations Command South held a change of responsibility ceremony for departing Command Sgt. Maj. Donald A. White Sr. and for incoming Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas E. Wall, Feb. 28.

White has served at SOCSOUTH for more than three years, and more than 32 years in the Army. His troops were upset to see him go, but excited to receive another outstanding and highly decorated senior enlisted advisor.

Many servicemembers across the command expressed that they will miss White and his leadership.

"Command Sgt. Maj. White was always there for me when I needed him. I'm going to miss him and his wisdom," said Spc. Neshme Bazan, Budget Analyst for SOCSOUTH.

During his remarks, White spoke about the dedication of the command and its servicemembers during his tenure at SOCSOUTH. He also said that he will miss working with his fellow servicemembers and providing those of them who sought guidance his help. Lastly, he thanked his family for their continued support during his three years in the unit.

"I'm going to miss mentoring my troops. Most of all, I'll miss the camaraderie of working with a selfless, dedicated, and mission oriented team," said White.

Motivated and excited for a great opportunity, incoming Wall assured his commander and troops of his dedication and commitment to meet and over-exceed their expectations as their new senior enlisted advisor.

"I'm deeply saddened to leave the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, of whom were an outstanding unit of soldiers, but I'm also extremely honored and privileged to be given the opportunity to serve the exceptional men and woman of SOCSOUTH," said Wall. "I am committed to do as the Special Forces Creed says, 'I will serve with the memory of those who have gone before me. I pledge to uphold the honor and integrity of all I am, in all I do'."

The importance of the welfare and livelihood of the special operations troops is not only displayed in the manner of which they implement their force structure and carry out their affairs, it is seen in the Special Operation Forces Truths: 'Humans are more important than hardware' and 'Quality is better than quantity.'

Image

1 - 30Next