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US, Central American Partners Reaffirm Security Commitment

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U.S. and Central American military leaders gathered in El Salvador May 21 to reaffirm their shared commitment to regional security and renew partner-nation engagement and training.

The multinational forum, hosted by U.S. Army South, served as the 19th edition of the U.S.-El Salvador army-to-army staff talks and the fifth Central American (CENTAM) Working Group, which was designed to enhance interoperability among American, Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran armies.

“This partnership matters,” said Maj. Gen. David Mikolaities, New Hampshire adjutant general and principal U.S. Army leader at the conference. The New Hampshire National Guard collaborates regularly with El Salvador as part of the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.

“Based on our shared values and our ideals, we all have a mutual interest of working together to establish a common operating picture so we can help solve the problems that our countries face together,” Mikolaities said.

Partnership echoed throughout the forum, which began as Maj. Michelle Sharp, Army South intelligence security cooperation chief, shared the successes of the annual CENTAM Regional Intelligence Working Group with Mikolaities, Salvadoran Army Col. Mario Figueroa, Guatemalan Naval Capt. Hector Ortiz, Honduran Army Col. Marco Lanza and their delegations. This working group, now in its third year, is an agreed-to-action between U.S. Army South and Central American partners that focuses on regional security, intelligence issues, and solutions to common threats and challenges.

“This working group provides a venue for each nation’s intelligence professionals to create interoperable regional strategies and strengthen intelligence relationships through sharing and collaboration,” said Sharp, who added that the expanding Army South-led committee recently developed the first-of-its-kind Central American Regional Security and Intelligence Strategy. “The strengths of the partnerships that this committee builds have attracted new regional partners to join.”

Regional partnership is also annually displayed during CENTAM Guardian, a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored and Army South-supported multinational exercise. Participating countries practice a combined response to simulated regional threats.

Maj. Michael Garza, Army South G7 training readiness exercise and Army Reserve engagement cell planner, discussed CENTAM Guardian’s successes and lessons learned during the forum, sparking dialogue with Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan counterparts about improving forthcoming iterations.

“The multinational working group enhances future CENTAM Guardian exercises by developing real-world contingencies in a rapidly changing environment,” said Garza. “Continuous collaboration and information sharing will build upon previous exercises.”

The multinational forum also enabled bilateral interactions and strategic discussions among the partner-nation armies. The four principals signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding and agreed to multiple army-to-army exchanges, combined exercises and other professional military activities.

Mikolaities said the event was instrumental to enhance interoperability between the four partner nations.

“We have a strong history of partnership and working together,” he said to his Central American counterparts. “Working together to understand the problems, having a common operating picture and domain awareness matters. Our future is stronger when we’re together.” (https://www.army.mil/article/276714/us_central_american_partners_reaffirm_security_commitment)

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