The 34th cycle of the Conference of American Armies, or CAA, focusing on non-commissioned officer education and COVID-19 lessons learned, was held Feb. 9-11 at U.S. Army South headquarters at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston as a hybrid in-person and virtual event due to pandemic restrictions.
The CAA is an international military organization integrated and run by 23 member armies of the Americas, three observer armies and Spain’s army as a special observer. Each cycle lasts two years and is led by a different volunteer member army who chooses a topic. This cycle is led by Argentina.
During the conference, subject matter experts presented NCO educational topics, while three working groups addressed matters concerning academic course structure, online education, opportunities to share NCO educational resources, and COVID-19 adaptations to NCO education.
“We're really focusing on the NCO piece, trying to strengthen the NCO Corps of all the armies across the region,” said Robert Pike, the U.S. Army’s CAA liaison officer. “This conference is about NCO education, and other conferences will look at NCO career profiles, NCO leadership, the role of the NCO, the future of the NCO and NCO training.”
In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic was also a large focus of the conference since it adds several challenges to how the conference operates.
Pike said the CAA is looking at each army’s response to the pandemic and how member nations can learn from each other's experiences.
“The CAA would normally have in-person conferences several times a year, but it has moved everything to a virtual platform to curb the spread of the virus,” Pike said.
Though COVID-19 has created many challenges, there is at least one benefit.
“There are resource-constrained countries that are unable to attend all of the in-person conferences, but participation has greatly improved by moving it to a virtual platform,” Pike said.
Overall, this conference was productive, said Brig. Gen. Alcides V Faria, Jr., U.S. Army South Deputy Commanding General of Interoperability.
“This event allowed us to develop and consolidate our interoperability and strengthen our partnership with concrete benefits for our organizations and our countries,” said Alcides. “I am very confident that we have produced excellent results that will be very useful to all the armies of the CAA.”
The next CAA will be a live event scheduled to take place in El Salvador in April of this year.
The CAA was created in 1960 with the aim of establishing a forum of discussion for the exchange of experiences, analysis and debate between the armies of the western hemisphere with a goal to enhance collaboration, security and democratic development of the member countries.
U.S. Army South plays a key role as the U.S. Army's lead agent and CAA liaison responsible for all coordination with partner nation armies.