Interview With VADM Joseph D. Kernan
By Dialogo July 20, 2011
Vice Admiral Joseph D. Kernan assumed his duties as the U.S. Southern Command Military Deputy Commander in May 2011, and ever since has been on an almost non-stop tour throughout the 16 million square mile area of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean to get better acquainted with the region. The former US 4th Fleet commander made sure to stop in Brazil exactly at the same time the country is hosting the 5th Military World Games and took the time to speak with Diálogo about this major event.
Diálogo – In what way do the Military World Games promote security cooperation throughout the region?
VADM Kernan: Bringing athletes and delegations together from over 100 nations for sports competitions offers personal interaction that builds friendships and relations among those that all serve the security and well being of their respective nations. Many will be future leaders in their countries and military. Those relations established at events of this nature will serve to build the trust and confidence to work together in common interests. Brazil has named these the “Peace Games”, underscoring the notion that the collective theme for our militaries is global security and peace. As we can engage in friendly competition so to can we partner and promote a safe and peaceful world.
Diálogo – What’s the importance to the region the fact that the MWG are to be held for the first time in a Latin-America country (Brazil)?
VADM Kernan: Hosting the games in this region, and specifically Brazil, offers the world an opportunity to experience Brazil’s hospitality and better appreciate the region’s importance in the global environment. The high value Brazil and the region places on building relations that contribute to global peace, prosperity, and cultural diversity will resonate with every participating nation. Furthermore, as I just mentioned, with the “Peace Games” theme, it further demonstrates precisely what Brazil has shown all of us both domestically and internationally – that a strong military can promote peace through an effective application of “soft power”. So what more appropriate place to hold them than in Brazil, particularly as they continue to emerge as a global leader.
Diálogo – To the U.S. military athletes, how important are the MWG and how do they feel to have the chance to compete with and exchange experiences with their counterparts in the region?
VADM Kernan: Competitions of this nature are as much about connecting with counterparts and establishing personal relationships as they are about friendly competition. The competitions will end, the relationships and mutual respect gained through sport will endure and likely offer productive professional and security-based engagements in the future. We are first connected by our profession, serving the security interests of our nations. Personal interaction will only foster our ability to work together for common interests. Having participated in CISM as a young officer, I remember more the camaraderie with the fellow athletes from many countries to include Brazil and others from this region, than I do the actual results of the competition.
Diálogo – U.S. participated in the Solidarity Travel Plan cooperating with the seats on their military planes, helping other countries that otherwise would not be able to participate in the MWG. What other measure – if any – did the US take in cooperation with other nations regarding the MWG?
VADM Kernan: We are always open to cooperating with other countries to ensure the success of events of this nature. We did help to provide transportation for athletes from several regional nations so they could compete and experience the many benefits of these Military World Games. We were very willing to provide airlift support for these nations to compete when they otherwise might not have been able to for lack of transportation. The more countries that participate, the more benefit for all. Brazil has done an extraordinary job orchestrating all aspects of this international event, hosting nearly 9,000 athletes and spectators anticipated to number nearly 400,000. Brazil has created the venue for the “Peace Games”; it is now up to participating countries to reap the benefits.
Diálogo – Are there any plans for the U.S. to host the MWG in the near future?
VADM Kernan: I am not aware of any plans for the U.S. to host the Games in the future. We certainly enjoy participation in countries outside of the U.S. and gain the benefits of experiencing different cultures and expanding relations with host and competing countries. But I’m certain that if we ever do host them we will look to the outstanding organization and execution of these games in Brazil as a model to follow.