Exercises 



 

        
Check your SOCSOUTH email.
 
News Releases
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.”