Institute of Excellence Celebrates Its 15th Anniversary with a 'Quinceañera'

The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) celebrated its 15th anniversary with a Latin-inspired celebration.
By Lee Rials, WHINSEC Public Affairs | 3 February 2016

International Relations

Dr. Frank Mora discusses U.S.-Cuba relations during his speech at WHINSEC's 15th Anniversary celebration. [Photo: Lee Rials/WHINSEC Public Affairs].

Since it began 15 years ago, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) has matured and become an integral part of the U.S. Army’s educational system. In recognition of that, WHINSEC celebrated with a “Quinceañera” party on January 14th.

U.S. Army Colonel Keith W. Anthony presents a painting of WHINSEC headquarters, Bradley Hall, along with other mementos in gratitude for his long-time contributions to the Institute and for participating in the anniversary celebration. [Photo: Lee Rials/WHINSEC Public Affairs]

Latin American cultures celebrate “Quinceañeras” (from the Spanish word for fifteen) to signify the coming of age of girls on their 15th birthday. While traditions vary in different countries, typically the girl's parents organize a large, formal party for the birthday girl.

At WHINSEC's 15th Anniversary celebration, the Commandant, U.S. Army Colonel Keith W. Anthony stated the institute will refrain from public observances of its anniversary for 10 years, until its Silver Anniversary. He assured the audience it will continue to grow in quality and service during that time.

Speech on U.S.-Cuba relations

Dr. Frank O. Mora, the director of the Latin America and Caribbean Center (LACC) at Florida International University (FIU) delivered the keynote address, in which he spoke of his expectations for U.S.-Cuba relations. Mora, who is also a professor of Politics and International Relations at FIU in Miami, Florida, has years of experience and expertise on Cuba issues in academia and from his service as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs. During his speech, Dr. Mora predicted and hoped that Cuban Military personnel would be students and faculty members in the near future.

From left to right: Colonel Keith Anthony, Commandant; Salvadoran Colonel Luis Viera Santamaría, Assistant Commandant; Colombian Sergeant Franco Quimbayo Hernando, youngest international team member; 1st Lieutenant Sophia Navedo, youngest U.S. member; Mr. Mauricio Lawson, oldest U.S. team member; Costa Rican Colonel Walter Navarro Romero, oldest international team member; Paraguayan Command Sergeant Major Digno Galeano Benitez, Guest Command Sergeant Major; and Command Sergeant Major Abel Tavera, WHINSEC Command Sergeant Major, cut the cake signifying 15 years of service. [Photo: Lee Rials/WHINSEC Public Affairs]

The celebration also featured the oldest and youngest U.S. and international members of the team joining the Institute Command Group to cut the anniversary cake. Several community leaders joined in the event and ensuing reception.

Beginnings of WHINSEC

On January 17, 2001, Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy de Leon hosted the opening ceremony for WHINSEC, welcoming U.S. Army Colonel Richard D. Downie as the first “Director” (the title of Commandant came later).

Since opening its doors, WHINSEC has trained and educated more than 21,000 students sent by 34 countries. Nearly 2,000 of those students (1,983) were trained and educated during the last fiscal year alone.

Following the tenure of Col. Downie, Colonel Gilberto Perez, Colonel Felix Santiago, and Colonel Glenn Huber have led an Institute that has been praised by the U.S. and other Militaries. In 2013, WHINSEC was named a U.S. Army Institute of Excellence, and it has revamped its courses to ensure they are of the highest quality and cover a wide range of topics.

WHINSEC has moved a couple of times. Initially, it made a temporary move to buildings along Richardson Circle before occupying the complex that was the first Fort Benning Hospital in April 2014. The WHINSEC campus, when completely renovated, will consist of eight buildings with 17 classrooms to serve the two schools and an Academy that form the Institute.

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