Far from being his first visit to the United States, it was a particularly significant one. In late February, General Jorge Orlando Céliz Kuong concluded his first trip to the United States—where he completed a Master in Business Administration— since assuming command over the Peruvian Army in November 2018. “This trip is extremely important to me and my staff who joins me, because it will help the institutional transformation process we are conducting in Peru,” Gen. Céliz told Diálogo. “Here, for instance, we see how the United States develops this same process, something that they have come far in implementing already.”
Activities kicked off with a bilateral meeting with Major General Mark Stammer, commander of U.S. Army South (ARSOUTH), at Fort Sam Houston. Gen. Céliz was accompanied by a Peruvian Army delegation including: Lieutenant General Walter Enrique Astudillo Chávez, commander of Army Education and Doctrine; Major General Julio Cesar Castañeda Zegarra, commandant of Army Education and Doctrine; and Major General Edwin Patterson Monsalve, command general secretary. To conclude the meeting, Gen. Céliz and Maj. Gen. Stammer planned another bilateral meeting in April to discuss a potential ARSOUTH-sponsored regional conference hosted by Peru.
Center for the Intrepid
As part of the visit, Gen. Céliz stopped at the Center for the Intrepid. Located within the Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in Fort Sam Houston, the cutting-edge medical rehabilitation clinic offers therapy, treatments, and reintegration services to U.S. military personnel. According to U.S. Army Brigadier General George Appenzeller, BAMC commander, the clinic was initially founded to assist U.S. service members who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. “Veterans from previous conflicts are also eligible to receive treatment, as well as military personnel who sustained injuries in other operations, training exercises, or non-combat situations,” he said.
At ARSOUTH, Gen. Céliz gave a presentation on the vision, guidelines, and current transformation process of his army. “We are committed to modernizing, creating real and effective capabilities, becoming a multi-mission army, however, always in compliance with the security needs of our society,” he said. Gen. Céliz also pointed out interoperability as a strategic effort between the armed forces and police to facilitate the fight against challenges that “affect nearly all nations of the Southern Hemisphere, such as narcotrafficking.”
The Peruvian delegation also visited the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, Health Readiness Center of Excellence (AMEDDCS HRCoE). “The center is where the Army Medical Department formulates its medical organization, tactics, doctrine, and equipment. The school is where the Army educates and trains all its medical personnel,” said Oscar Ramos-Rivera, director of the International Programs Division at AMEDDCS HRCoE.
As part of the visit, U.S. air medical pilots treated the Peruvian delegation to flight simulations in combat environments. Gen. Céliz concluded his stay in Fort Sam Houston meeting with various high-ranking U.S. officers to conduct initial agreements for training, non-reciprocal exchanges, and emergency treatments for members of the Peruvian Army. The delegation continued on to Columbus, Georgia, to visit Fort Benning.
Military life and family balance
In Georgia, the Peruvian delegation started its visit with a private meeting with Major General Gary Brito, commander of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence. The institution teaches and trains future members of units to be deployed to various U.S. combatant commands worldwide. Gen. Céliz showed special interest in learning about the center’s efforts to improve family and military life balance.
The Peruvian delegation also visited the U.S. Army’s 198th Infantry Brigade—which strives to transform civilians into soldiers—and the warehouse where Stryker tanks are stored. There, Peruvian officers learned how to operate what U.S. service members refer to as “a platform of capabilities, not just a warfare vehicle.” The U.S. Army heavily relies on the Stryker family of armored vehicles for exercises and operational missions.
A visit to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) was a must while in Georgia. Gen. Céliz, a WHINSEC instructor in the late ‘90s, caught up with former colleagues and conducted a lecture for the WHINSEC Command and General Staff Officer course on the Peruvian Army’s main challenges.
“This institutional transformation is a very difficult and challenging initiative. Some things can be done immediately at no cost, such as shifting mentality or changing organizational culture,” Gen. Céliz concluded. “It’s important to know what other armies do, especially the U.S. Army, to analyze possible takeaways or what can be adapted for Peru. This trip was very productive.”