United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

DoD News

Bookmark and Share

 News Article

U.S. Troops Forge Bonds in South America

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

CARACAS, VENEZUELA, March 14, 1996 – From the peaks of the Andes to the frigid waters of Cape Horn to the jungles of Brazil, U.S. service members are forging new bonds with their South American counterparts.

Each day, U.S. service members play major roles in regional security, serving as combatready warriors and as ambassadors, said Defense Secretary William J. Perry. During a stop in Caracas, Perry told American service members and their families they serve as a model of how the military serves a democratic nation.

The nuts and bolts of building defense ties rests with teams of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and other countries throughout the region. Joint exercises, exchange programs and providing funds for foreign service members and civilian defense personnel to attend U.S. military schooling are the tools necessary to build defense ties, Perry said.

Air Force Col. Steven E. Cady heads the U.S. Military Group in Chile. His team coordinates exchange programs, training exercises and schooling with Chile's military.

A Navy lieutenant commander heads an office on the coast at Valparaiso, Chile's second largest city and the chief port of South America's west coast. "He grew up in the P3 business, which is significant because we've provided Chile with eight P3 aircraft that they're rehabilitating," Cady said. The P3 is a U.S. Navt reconnaissance plane.

In the late 1970s, a U.S. military group of 55 people worked in Chile, Cady said. The group was withdrawn while the country was under the military control of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who took control after a military coup in 1973. A new constitution made Pinochet president of the republic in 1980. He remained in control until free elections were held eight years later. President Patricio Aylwin was elected in 1989 followed by the current president, Eduardo Frei RuizTagle in 1994. Pinochet is still commander in chief of the army.

A U.S. military team returned to Chile in 1992, Cady said. "We decided to come back and reengage the people of Chile." The staff does a big job, according to Cady. Last year, they arranged training for 168 Chileans using $100,000 in International Military Education and Training program funds. This year, $300,000 is allocated for the program.

Training is moving away from such basic courses as pilot training and maintenance. "This is where we are getting into resource management and human rights types of courses, justice systems, civilian control of the military, quality," he said. "We set as a goal for ourselves, 25 percent of our [international education and training] budget should be going toward this. We are, in fact, above 40 percent this year already and continuing to grow."

A second goal of Cady's training program is encouraging Chile's military to work through the ministry of defense. The services do not report to the minister of defense as they do in the U.S. system, Cady said.

"In order to follow our ambassador's lead and DoD's lead as we try to reengage civilian leadership of the military, I've established that we drive [international training] money through the ministry of defense," he said. "They have to have that ministry of defense stamp on this money before they can use it."

The group also encourages joint operations. "Not only do the services not touch the ministry of defense, they don't touch each other," Cady said. "In our training programs, we are putting all three services civilians, officers, NCOs in the very same room. As you might guess, on Day 1 of the course nobody talks to anybody. But, in fact, during coffee breaks, it's almost magical."

During an air medical evacuation training last November, Cady said, he had members of the three services, the national police, the Red Cross and the fire department all laughing together over coffee. "The Red Cross ladies couldn't believe the Army officers were real people," he said. "It was an enriching engagement."

Cady's office also sets up exchanges between U.S. and Chilean service members. A U.S. Air Force officer works at the Chilean logistics command, and another is a student at their air war college. A U.S. Navy officer is attending the Chilean naval war college and a U.S. Navy lieutenant is a ship rider in Chile's navy. By the time he finishes the twoyear exchange, he'll have piloted every oceangoing vessel in the Chilean navy, Cady said.

A Chilean major teaches at the U.S. mountain school in Alaska, and plans call for a U.S. Army NCO to become a faculty member at the Chilean mountain school. DoD also plans to include two P3 personnel, a maintenance officer and a pilot, in the exchange program.

"This is growing program," Cady said. "It helps us by providing training and leadership opportunities for young officers and NCOs, and it engages the Chileans and helps them understand how we think and how we face our challenges."

U.S. troops also come to Chile for training exercises. About 20 people from Fort Bragg, N.C., are currently climbing Chile's mountains.

"We engage our host nation people, and they learn a lot from us, but the primary reason for the deployment is to train our troops in places they normally would not have the opportunity to train," he said. "Last year, we had scuba divers, mountaineers, parachutists, pilots, air medical."

Within the next four months, a jet fighter exercise and a tactical airlift exercise will be held.

Overall, Cady said, U.S. service members benefit from the opportunity to train in Chile as much as Chilean service members do. "Without hesitation, I'll say our military is better for the opportunities it's had to train down here than it would have been without," Cady said.

"These are the hardestworking people I've ever seen," he said. "They are very intent on having a professional, disciplined, responsible military. They train hard; they train realistically. Following their engagements down here, every one of our people steps away saying, 'Wow! It's incredible training.'"

Contact Author

Additional Links

Stay Connected