Exercises, Communication Keys to Military Ties, Myers Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 15, 2004 Nothing can take the place of meeting foreign military leaders in their countries as the United States seeks to build military-to-military ties, said Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff finished a five-day visit to South America and Haiti March 13. In South America, the chairman spoke with military and civilian leaders on bilateral and multilateral relations.
The chairman visited Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile before stopping in Haiti. The United States has long-standing close relationships with each country. The trip had been planned for months, long before the situation in Haiti became critical. Still, in addition to military-to-military ties, the chairman spoke with leaders about Haiti, the war on terrorism and regional issues.
The chairman said he was pleased with the results of the trip. "The best way to tell them that they are important partners is to go to their countries and tell them that in person," Myers said during an interview. "When you take the time and travel the distance to speak with them in their offices, I think that means a lot."
A case in point is in Haiti today. The U.S. military and Chilean military have exercised together for years. After Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigned as the president, Chile was one of the first countries with troops in Port-au-Prince as part of the Multinational Interim Force. Because of the contacts between the U.S. and Chilean militaries, the process of working together has gone smoothly, Myers said.
"You never know when you will be called upon to perform some sort of mission, from humanitarian to actual conflict," said the chairman noted. "The more we work together and exercise, the easier it is to work together later."
Myers said that while bilateral exercises are important, multilateral exercises involving the countries of the region are even more important. He said he hopes the nations of what is called "the Southern Cone" of South America will exercise together with the United States. He said that with the exception of a few political issues, the countries all have good relations with one another.
"The armed forces of those countries, through participating in exercises, build trust and confidence transparency, and it's all really good stuff," Myers said. "That's the coin of the realm."
He also spoke about joint operations with the leaders of the countries he visited. While each nation is moving toward a more unified military system, each is a different distance down the road. "Each country has their own laws and their own ways of doing things," Myers said. "My take is the people will see how effective the U.S. military is, and they must understand that a part of that is the way we integrate each service into joint operations."
He said that the nations also will see the efficiencies the U.S. military realizes from joint operations. But ultimately, increasing the joint nature of their militaries "is their decisions. We're there to provide any help they need or any advice or experiences we might share, but it will be their choice in the end."
Myers said that some leaders brought up the fact that they want to stay interoperable with the U.S. military. "That's an issue," he said. "One of the things I told them was they ought to look to (U.S) Joint Forces Command because they are our change agent in the U.S. military. They play an important role in transformation, they do our joint exercises, they do our experimentation."
Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, the head of Joint Forces Command, also is NATO's supreme allied commander for transformation. He coordinates efforts to transform alliance forces.
Myers said that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said that transformation should not be limited to NATO allies. Transformation is "Japan, Korea and other countries," he said. "I mentioned that in the region, and people are pretty enthusiastic about that."