Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, April 25, 2016 —
Readiness U.S. Army Chief Of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley has
made it clear this is the No. 1 priority. Active engagement with partner nation
armies is key in remaining ready to meet the ever-changing challenges of today
U.S. Army South, the Army service component command to U.S.
Southern Command, knows well the benefits of strong partnerships as displayed
during the 7th annual U.S.- Colombia bilateral army-to-army staff talks in
Bogota, Colombia April 11-14.
“The most important aspect of these talks is the
relationships that we’ve built and fostered between our two great armies,” said
U.S. Maj. Gen. K.K. Chinn, U.S. Army South commander. “I’m always excited to
come down here, not only because of the friendship, but more importantly to see
all the good things the Colombian army is doing for its nation, its soldiers
and for its army overall.”
The U.S. Army Staff Talks Program serves as a bilateral
forum for strategic-level discussion between respective armies. The program
seeks to promote bilateral efforts in order to develop professional
partnerships and increase interaction between partner nation armies.
U.S. Army South’s engagement focus with the Colombian army
at the operational level includes four primary areas: strengthening
capabilities to defeat terrorist threats, countering transnational organized
crime, enabling key capabilities to facilitate the transition of the Colombian
army to an enduring post-conflict environment and supporting its transformation
to an interoperable global strategic partner.
“This was a very good opportunity for the Colombian army,”
said Colombian Gen. Alberto Jose Mejia, army commander. “It’s an honor to host
these staff talks, especially during this precise point in our history in which
our army is going through many changes.”
Army South, as the Army’s executive agent, engages in annual
bilateral staff talks with Colombia, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador and Peru.
During these talks, the U.S. Army works to develop agreed-to-actions with our
staff talks partners in an effort to work together in the future toward common
goals. Army-to-army staff talks can include anything from joint engineer
projects, exchange programs between elite military schools, subject matter
expert exchanges, doctrine exchanges, research and development cooperation and
working together in simulated exercises.
After signing the official agreement, Chinn said he was
pleased with the end result.
“These army-to-army staff talks are a testament of
Colombia’s strong, professional army that is capable and has continued to
protect the people of Colombia,” Chinn said. “The Colombian army provides
stability and economic growth, allowing it to be a role model as a professional
army and an example for the region in defeating emerging threats, exporting
security, transformation, working with interagency, humanitarian assistance and
disaster relief and leader development.”
Though the agreed-to-actions are the focus of the meetings,
Chinn said the staff talks are about something much bigger.
“It’s an opportunity for us to build relationships and trust
with each other as we look at emerging challenges and threats throughout the
region,” Chinn said. “What’s important is that if an emerging challenge occurs,
we feel comfortable enough to pick up the phone and call each other, and we
have a teammate or friend on the other side of the phone who asks ‘how can we
According to Mejia, trust with your partners is key to
ensuring the staff talks process is successful in making better Armies for both
“Throughout these talks, I’m very candid in expressing my
views and sharing our knowledge,” Mejia said. “Presenting not only our
strengths, but also our weaknesses is the only way you can identify ways to
help each other. If I pretend that everything is fantastic in our army, we
wouldn’t achieve our goal of
Taking part in this year’s bilateral staff talks with
Colombia was Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr., adjutant general of the South
Carolina National Guard that routinely partners with the Colombian military as
part of the state partnership program.
Livingston said the exchange of information is truly a
two-way street, as the U.S. Army has much it can learn from its Colombian
“We enjoyed the exchange of information,” Livingston said.
“We have a lot to learn from their great successes and there are some things
that we may be able to share. It’s a wonderful opportunity for our two armies
to continue to make history for this region of the world.”
After the closing ceremony for these 7th annual bilateral
staff talks, leaders from each army shared handshakes and hugs with their
partner nation counterparts. Mejia closed out with a few parting remarks as the
room stood silent, hinged on his every word.
“The formality of this meeting and the active participation
that you’ve seen here is a demonstration of respect, a demonstration of how we
honor the U.S. Army and U.S. Army South, but especially the level of friendship
and confidence that we all have in Major General Chinn and his great team,”
Mejia said. “When you think of the hemisphere, remember that here in this
corner of South America, in Colombia, you have a trusted partner, a trusted
army and trusted Soldiers who would go with you any place, anytime.”