US Army South (USARSO)
"Defense and Fraternity"
The mission of US Army South (USARSO), as the Army Service Component Command for US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), is to conduct Theater Security Cooperation in order to enhance hemispheric security and stability. USARSO, on order, conduct contingency operations as directed by USSOUTHCOM.
USARSO is the Major Army Command, reporting directly to the Headquarters, Department of the Army, with Central and South America and the Caribbean as its area of responsibility. It is the Army component of USSOUTHCOM, and, when combined with other components of the command, works together as a team to accomplish USSOUTHCOM's theater engagement missions. USARSO directly supports the USSOUTHCOM Commander in Chief's strategy and programs. Consequently, USARSO is in charge of all Army operations within USSOUTHCOM's area of operations. In addition to PANAMAX, USARSO participates in army-to-army exercises, counter drug operations, peace keeping missions, humanitarian missions, disaster relief, and protocol events.
To better understand the USARSO mission, it first needs to be placed within the perspective of the USSOUTHCOM mission. USSOUTHCOM provides strategic and operational command and control of assigned US land, sea and air forces within its area of responsibility, and defends US interests and assists friendly nations within that area in the development of their militaries. USSOUTHCOM shapes the environment within its AOR by conducting theater engagement counter drug activities, and is postured for contingency operations if called upon. USSOUTHCOM is engaged in promoting democracy and stability while fostering collective approaches to regional threats, and providing the vitality, integrity and strength to our military allies and their support for democracy and their institutions. Furthermore, when required, it responds unilaterally or multilaterally to crises that threaten regional stability or national interests and constantly prepares to meet future challenges in the region.
USARSO is actively employed throughout the area implementing the Commander in Chief's strategy. Building regional cooperative security is the major theme guiding USARSO's activities. USARSO contributes to increasing hemispheric cooperation by planning and executing multilateral exercises fostering military-to-military engagement, distinguished visitor program, and promoting conferences that from a USARSO strategic vision and conferences.
USARSO also stands ready to respond to a full spectrum of operations, from natural disaster contingencies, to humanitarian assistance, to combat. For instance, USARSO modified the New Horizon exercises to focus them on the Central American nations devastated by Hurricane Mitch. These activities are the tools USARSO uses to implement the Commander in Chief's strategy. They include medical assistance and engineering construction exercises, platoon training exchanges, multinational humanitarian and peace keeping exercises, communications conferences, subject matter expert and technical exchanges, and a robust program of distinguished visitor and Commanding General trips.
In this manner, USARSO productively engages the armies of USARSO's area of responsibility, from the Ministry of Defense and CINC level to the soldier in the field. USARSO also receives invaluable training for US forces, while demonstrating to the people of this area the benefits that accrue from having a professional, disciplined military subordinate to democratically elected government.
One of the newest and most promising tools in USARSO's operations tool box is the USARSO Deployable Command Package (UDCP). This contingency focused, task oriented organization provides us with the ability to rapidly deploy a C4I package anywhere in our area of responsibility within 24 hours in response to a wide array of natural and manmade disasters. Once on site, the UDCP works closely with US and regional military, interagency, governmental and non-governmental organizations to resolve the problem. A demonstration of the UDCP's capabilities involved planning and site surveys for the volcanic disturbances in Ecuador and support for USSOUTHCOM's Special Operations Command's Venezuelan disaster relief effort, an effort that saved thousands of lives and helped pave the way for future reconstruction programs.
Another important engagement tool is the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC; previously known as the US Army School of the Americas) located at Fort Benning, Georgia. While this does not fall under USARSO's Command it is worth mentioning because of its importance in establishing military to military contacts and promotingconfidence-building measures between USARSO countries.
USARSO's area of responsibility is vitally important to the US economy, national security and culture. The area is huge, containing 32 countries and over one-sixth of the world's surface area. For perspective, the entire continental United States fits inside just Brazil. As of the 2000s, over one third of US petroleum came from Latin America. Venezuela alone provided the US with more crude oil than all of the Middle East nations combined. The also US sold more within the region than to the European Union. With 20 percent of US exports, it was the fastest growing market. Of every dollar spent in the area, nearly half of it was spent on US goods and services. At that rate, by the year 2020, the US would trade more with the area than with both Europe and Japan combined.
The US also had the fifth largest Spanish speaking population in the world at that time. By the year 2010, the Hispanic community was expected to represent the largest minority group in the United States. However, it was an enormously diverse group, which included snow-capped mountains, steamy jungles and swamps, unrelenting deserts, broad savannas and lush rain forests, all combined with an amazingly wide array of ethnic communities.
The Andean ridge nations of South America present an example of related, but distinctly different challenges. Illegal drug-financed insurgency and paramilitary activity threaten the democratic and economic underpinnings of the area. Natural disasters, coupled with wide scale corruption and antiquated economic systems leave countries floundering in the world wide business community. Gross disparities of wealth and disenfranchised minorities, often comprised of ethnic Indian populations, pressure the seams of the areas' democratic institutions. Even the traditionally more stable and economically robust nations of the Southern Cone are experiencing increasing pressure on their political and economic establishment.
US Army South has its origins in construction and US presence in the area around the Panama Canal. On 8 March 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed an Isthmian Canal Commission (ICC), composed primarily of Army officers, to govern the Canal Zone and to report directly to the Secretary of War. In 1911, the US Army began building defensive fortifications, to include Forts DeLesseps, Randolph and Sherman on the Atlantic side, and Forts Amador and Grant on the Pacific side. On 4 October 1911, the US Army's 10th Infantry Regiment arrived at Camp E.S. Otis. These troops, along with other infantry, cavalry, and a battalion of US Marines, fell under the control of the ICC, and became known as the Panama Canal Guard. At the end of 1914, the Panama Canal Guard was redesignated as US Troops - Panama Canal Zone
On 1 July 1917, the Panama Canal Department was established as a separate geographic command with headquarters at Quarry Heights, Panama. Units included the 19th Brigade, composed of the 14th and 33rd Infantry, the 42nd Field Artillery, the 11th Engineers, and special troops.
On 10 February 1941, the Caribbean Defense Command became the senior Army headquarters in the region, assuming operational responsibility over air and naval forces assigned in its area of operations. In December 1946, President Truman approved a comprehensive system of military commands that put responsibility for military operations in various geographical areas in the hands of a single commander. US Caribbean Command was created on 1 November 1947. On 15 November 1947, the Panama Canal Department became US Army Caribbean (USARCARIB), headquartered at Fort Amador.
On 6 June 1963, the US Caribbean Command became US Southern Command. It was not until 4 December 1986, however, that US Army South (USARSO) was activated as a Major Army Command, taking over from US Army Caribbean as the Army component of USSOUTHCOM. When it was activated, USARSO was headquartered at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, making the headquarters strategically located and culturally identified with its area of responsibility. An additional benefit to USARSO's location in Puerto Rico was the ability to readily acquire and leverage support from the Puerto Rico Reserve Component, which offered a unique and valuable bilingual tool for regional engagement.
By 2000, the majority of USARSO personnel were stationed at Fort Buchanan. However, USARSO also maintained an important and versatile force, consisting primarily of 1-228th Aviation at Soto Cano Air Base in Palmerola, Honduras. As the Army AOR Executive Agent USARSO also supported base operations (BASOPS) Miami, Special Operations Command South (SOCSO) Army troops, and military groups (MILGRPS) in 26 countries and 11 territories.
As of 2000, USARSO had an operating strength of less than approximately 1,800 personnel, USARSO operated in an area of responsibility that contained one-sixth of the world's land mass and represented the United States' fastest growing trade partner. Its size and the unique training opportunities that the region offered meant USARSO enjoyed extensive Reserve Component support. Nearly 100,000 National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers helped USARSO realize its regional engagement program, while at the same time receiving invaluable training through medical, civic-action and humanitarian assistance exercises. The majority of USARSO's support, however, came from CONUS-based forces. USARSO also maintained a deployable headquarters.
The Puerto Rico Army National Guard and Reserve units supported USARSO's many multilateral exercises and programs. It was through this integration of Active Army, National Guard, and Reserves that USARSO maximized resources to carry out missions. Fort Buchanan and the other national guard sites on the island had excellent facilities to support not only soldiers, but families as well. To meet the demand, Fort Buchanan was investing millions of dollars to improve many of its facilities.
In September 2002, it was announced that USARSO would move its headquarters from Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, during FY03. The move was the result of an overall headquarters realignment assessment that aimed to provide the Army with greater efficiency and personnel savings. Upon completion of the move, USARSO would become a major subordinate command of US Army Forces Command. This would allow USARSO to reduce its number of personnel from 400 to 300, as well as much of its headquarters overhead.