The Islamic Post Blog


Southern Command Builds Latin American Capacity by ipinfo2
March 24, 2009, 11:03 am
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, March Volume 2009 | Tags:

The United States Department of Defense believes the increase of noncommissioned officers trained by the U.S. Southern Command in Latin America and the Caribbean will assist fight against human traffickers and narco-terrorists in the region.

The days of “looking east and west more than north and south” to promote U.S. security are gone, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Navy Admiral Mike Mullen said at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. “We need to pay more attention to our neighbors and the security issues and the economic issues that are associated with not just Mexico, but with [all of] Latin America.”

Mr Mullen emphasized the importance of Latin America to U.S. security interests. As the U.S. Southern Command’s top noncommissioned officer (NCO) Mr Mullen is busy promoting the effort of NCOs, who are the primary military leaders responsible for executing missions and for training military personnel.
According to the U.S. Defense Department, a big part of the equation to promote security in Central and South America and the Caribbean is helping partner nations build capacity within their militaries so they’re better able to confront threats ranging from illicit trafficking to narco-terrorism.
Southcom’s top NCO, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael M. Balch commented, “If you go back and look at Colombia in the mid-90s, it was a state in crisis.” The drug trade and guerilla insurgencies such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia terrorist group, or FARC, had taken siege. President Alvaro Uribe was elected in 2002, promising to apply military pressure to crack down on the FARC and other outlawed groups. SouthCom cites the example of Colombia as a successful mission.
According to military historian, Kevin Smith:
“The Noncommissioned Officer as we know him today is a remnant of the organizational structure of the traditional European army, especially as it existed during the Hundred Years’ War.  At that time, noncommissioned officers were drawn almost exclusively from the upper ranks of society.”
“We are trying to teach senior NCOs the skill set to become stronger noncommissioned officers, to complement the officer corps, to then in turn help make the army stronger overall,” said Sgt. Mjr. Balch. “What we are doing is really focused at the operational and strategic level, rather than the tactical level, of leadership in managing and leading forces.”
Mr. Smith notes that, in history, “There was almost no interaction between officers, who were predominately aristocrats, and the conscripted foot soldiers who came from the lower classes.  The Noncommissioned Officer’s  role was to serve as a kind of liaison between the two groups, and to maintain order in the camp.”
Hoping to build on this, he helped Colombia involve other countries. Today, every 45-member class includes three to four NCOs from Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, El Salvador, Honduras or other partner nations. Southcom has offered assistance and support to countries that requested it, and sponsoring conferences and other forums to promote NCO professionalism.
U.S. Army South will sponsor the fifth annual conference for senior enlisted leaders of Caribbean and Central and South American armies in June 2009 in Santiago, Chile, Balch said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force has provided NCO development in Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras. A session at Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras that delivered leadership training to NCOs from 16 countries proved “very, very successful,” according to Balch. “Colombia is probably the model of how to accomplish U.S. government objectives without the employment of a force on force,” he said.
The efforts have not been as successful in recent years with narcotrafficking out of Colombia. According to the latest report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, cocaine production in Colombia rose a shocking 27% in Colombia in 2007.

-Sources: UNODC, US Dept. of Defense.

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