U.S. Army South (ARSOUTH), on behalf of the Army’s chief of staff, conducted virtual staff talks with the Salvadoran Army on April 7 to promote readiness-focused bilateral efforts that enhance interoperability, contribute to the readiness of the total force, and improve U.S. Army and partner nations’ land forces capabilities, to address current and future strategic, operational, and tactical security challenges.
During the 14th edition of the U.S.-El Salvador Staff Talks in 2019, both commanders signed memorandums of understanding outlining agreed-to actions (ATAs), in which both armies would train together to strengthen the knowledge to combat transnational threats such as drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal trafficking of people and weapons, among others. However many of the activities and training initiatives in 2020 were held virtually or cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our two armies have stood the test of time. We fought alongside each other in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now, we fight alongside each other to counter the transnational threats affecting our region,” said Major General Daniel R. Walrath, ARSOUTH commanding general. “With perseverance and a common vision, we forged forward and withstood adversities. We are, indeed, brothers in arms, and we share the sacred duty of ensuring for the common defense of our nations.”
During the staff talks, the two commanders reviewed 15 ATAs, which covered a wide range of professional exchanges designed to improve capabilities and the working relationship between the two armies. Of note this year is the agreement between ARSOUTH and El Salvador with two other Central American armies in the region — Guatemala and Honduras — to conduct a tri-border exercise in 2022 entitled CENTAM GUARDIAN, which will focus on strengthening the hemispheric cooperation and collaboration between national/regional civilian and security/military entities.
According to Major Ruben Ramos, Central America desk officer, ARSOUTH Security Cooperation Division, the exercise will address threats and illicit activities at the tri-border area. The exercise will also allow El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to enhance their interoperability, domain awareness, and counter threat capabilities.
“The three countries have common threats, and we believe a regional approach will strengthen their partnerships and regional stability and security,” Maj. Ramos said. “CENTAM GUARDIAN lays down a solid foundation of training activities that enhance our ability to partner with the Salvadoran Army and its neighboring armies.”
Maj. Gen. Walrath emphasized ARSOUTH, as a strategic partner, must continue to show a strong and unified front to assist El Salvador in confronting these threats to regional security.
“The staff talks provide us with a great venue to better understand each other, develop common goals, and present a common vision,” Maj. Gen. Walrath said. “Together, we have made important and sustained contributions to regional security, while also providing an example to other nations of how successful partnerships between strong democratic nations are formed.”
This year’s meeting marks the 15th time the two armies have come together to reaffirm their regional partnership, which has become beneficial not only to El Salvador and the United States, but to the rest of the region as well.
“It’s an honor for the Salvadoran Army to take part in these staff talks, and I want to express that our two armies’ relationship is getting better and stronger because we have a common goal combatting threats to the Americas,” said Colonel Mario Adalberto Figueroa Cárcamo, Chief of the Salvadoran Army General Staff.
Col. Figueroa also highlighted the ATAs allows the Salvadoran Army to collaborate and participate with the U.S. Army and other armies in the region to jointly counter illicit activities that not only impact his nation, but other nations in the Western Hemisphere.
ARSOUTH also conducts the Central American Working Group, a regional event with the armies of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.