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Use Of The United States Army National Guard In Latin America
AUTHOR Major Bruce E. Davis, USARNG
CSC 1990
                        EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
TITLE:   Use of The United States Army National Guard in
Latin America
THESIS:  Use of The United States Army National Guard
in Latin America For humanitarian aid and nation
building projects offers a way to begin truly building
the western hemisphere into a democratic and economic
stronghold that could remain competitive with emerging
economic coalitions.
ISSUE:  The focus of the United States has
predominantly been on Europe and Asia since World War
II.   The Marshal Plan, economic assistance, the
rebuilding of Japan, the threat of communism, and the
delicate balance of trade have all contributed to this
focus beyond our hemisphere.   Attention on Latin
America has been at the political level rather than the
economic.   As the world approaches a new century and
the political and economic shape of the world changes
the United States must look ahead and be prepared to
not only survive these changes, but to exploit them to
our benefit.   The development of this hemisphere into
an economic community that thrives within a stable
political realm is critical to our survival as an
economic leader and a world power.
CONCLUSION:  The efforts of The United States should be
directed at a long term development of the nations
within this hemisphere into a viable economic
cooperative that can compete with the emerging
coalitions of the world.   Major efforts need to address
nation building, goodwill, prosperity, and stability.
The United States Army National Guard can be a
significant contributor to this effort.
THESES STATEMENT.  Use of the United States Army
National Guard in Latin America for humanitarian aid
and nation building projects offers a way to begin
truly building the western hemisphere into a democratic
and economic stronghold that could remain competitive
with emerging economic coalitions.
I.   Current Military Humanitarian Programs
     A.  United States
     B.  Cuba
II.  United States Army National Guard Force
     A.  Engineer
     B.  Medical
     C.  Water Purification
III. Expanded Program Potential
     A.  Roads
     B.  Communications
     C.  Education
     D.  Civil Affairs
     E.  Sanitation
     F   Medical Aid
     The United States Army National Guard is made up of
approximately 425,000 Civilian Soldiers.   The major units
of The Guard consist of 10 Divisions, 16 Separate
Brigades, 2 Armored Cavalry Regiments, 2 Special Forces
Groups, and 3 Round-Out Brigades.   In addition to the
elements organic to these combat units there are many
combat support and combat service support units that when
mobilized perform their mission at the Corps and Echelon
Above Corps levels.   It is the combat support and combat
service support units at the division, corps, and echelons
above corps levels that would provide the preponderance of
the direct action assistance that is the topic of this
     Engineers, communications personnel, medical
activities, civil affairs specialists, educators, and
water purification teams are all available to support an
expanded effort to assist in the development of the Latin
American neighbors in our hemisphere.
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     The United States Army National Guard currently
enjoys a fairly active, but limited assistance program
focused mostly within the region of Central America.   The
current efforts involve road building, medical assistance,
and disaster relief.   Worthy projects, but limited in
scope.   United States Army National Guard medical units
have provided assistance in Bolivia, Costa Rica,
Guatemala, and Honduras since 1987 as part of medical
civil action missions.1  During these missions a unit will
provide both medical and dental aid in support of the
national health programs.   The selection of missions and
assistance areas are usually chosen by the host nation
government officials to ensure the most needy are helped.
For example, an Oklahoma Army National Guard medical unit
treated 6,417 medical patients and 805 dental patients
during just one medical civil action mission in Guatemala
during May of 1989.   The tangible benefits of this
assistance are obvious.   Not only do the host nation
citizens benefit, but so do the United States Army
National Guard personnel that provide the medical
assistance.   They are able to treat ailments not always
seen in training exercises in the United States.
     The United States Army National Guard has been fairly
active in nation building projects as well.   Most of this
effort has been directed towards road building in
Honduras.   Since 1984 approximately 41,000 United States
Army National Guard Citizen Soldiers have participated in
this project alone.   Units rotate through at 17 day
intervals.   In addition to road building, the units also
construct schools and medical centers in the area of the
project as it proceeds.
     The United States Army National Guard accomplishes a
great deal, but unfortunately, much more could be done.
What makes this so unfortunate is that our major
competitor in the area is Cuba.2  The dilemma this presents
is obvious.   The people of Latin America are being
presented a choice between 2 spheres of influence, ours
and Castro's particular flavor of communism.   In 1976 Cuba
began to send construction workers, technical advisers,
teachers, physicians, dentists, and other public health
personnel to assist developing nations in Central America.
Admittedly, this was done in part to reduce the number of
unemployed within Cuba and in some cases to generate
income transfers back to Cuba, but the underlying reason
was to spread Castro's ideology to the mainland of the
     Cuba provides monetary foreign aid as well as
assistance programs, but it is the assistance programs
that have a tangible impact on the people of the Latin
American nations.   It is from the people that insurgent
movements originate.3  They provide the manpower of
revolutions.   They are the ones most accessible to Cuba's
assistance programs.  Due to their poverty and general
needy conditions they are also the easiest to convince
that there is a better way through armed conflict.  This
is what the United States must counter.  Since 1959 Cuba
has supported and encouraged armed conflicts in Nicaragua,
The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Panama, Venezuela,
Columbia, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia, and El Salvador.  It
is obvious that Cuba intends to export its ideology to the 
Latin American mainland through whatever means it can
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     The United States must focus efforts on the overall
economic improvement of the nations of Latin America.
North America presents a strong economic entity to compete
with the industrialized nations of the world, but as super
coalitions are formed in Europe and Asia the United States
must take action to ensure we maintain this economic well
being.   The potential exists to even improve rather than
retain the status quo.   An economic coalition made up of
the nations of this hemisphere would be a formidable
opponent in any economic arena.   Raw materials, natural
resources, agriculture, services, manufacturing, and
financial services are all available in abundant amounts.
     The challenge that faces the United States is not one
that can be addressed successfully in the near term.   It
must be addressed by a long term, long range program to
build economic and political stability throughout Latin
America while at the same time improving relations with
those nations.   Unfortunately, The United States track
record is not very good when it comes to long range
efforts.   Politicians are re-elected based on short term
track records.   Presidential administrations and the
agenda they bring with them change every 4 to eight years.
This is one challenge that must be solved if we are to
     There are several ways that the long range plan could
be managed.   One way is through The Federal Trade
Commission.   Their charter could be expanded to cover the
economic aspect of assisting is the development of Latin
America.   The State Department would be a key player as
well.   The stability of several of the fledgling
democracies is of primary importance.   Even the perception
of instability would impede the development of a viable
coalition.   The Department of Defense would be involved in
the employment of The United States Army National Guard in
the areas of nation building and development of goodwill
     The problem with this method of managing the effort
is obvious.   There is no one person or agency managing and
coordinating the efforts of all participants.   The risk of
failure, waste, and mismanagement as well as disjointed
efforts is too great to allow the current system to be
responsible for so important an undertaking.   I suggest
that a Presidential Cabinet level position be created
along the lines of the European Economic Community
representative system.   The person filling this position
would report directly to the administration in power, but
the agency would continue regardless of the party of the
person in office.   This agency would be responsible for
the development of a coordinated effort by the United
States to assist on a long term basis the nations of Latin
America.   Their charter would run the spectrum; tourism,
manufacturing, raw materials, conservation, agriculture,
and so on.   They would be the executive agent for all
United States efforts.
     I also suggest that the United States not wait to
create an economic alliance based on the European and
Asian models.   The immediate pursuit of this goal would
not detract in any way from our efforts.   In fact, I
believe it would lend credence to our commitment.   The
nations of Latin America would be able to see the efforts
of the United States turn into something tangible.   They
would be able to join in the effort at the beginning and
have some say in the development of the alliance.   It is
important that all nations perceive it as just exactly
that, an economic alliance directed at the improved
prosperity and economic growth of member nations.   This
may be a little tough for the United States to accept.
Our philosophy of the purse-string has not helped our
reputation in Latin America up to this point.   We know
that it is a matter of competing priorities in most cases,
but it is perceived to be vacillation on our part when
scrutinized by other nations.
     The initial stages of the United States effort to
assist Latin America is where the United States Army
National Guard can be the most useful.  The spectrum of
possibilities is almost limitless.   Sanitation, water
purification, construction, road building, and bridge
construction are just a few of the examples of what the
United States Army National Guard can do immediately.
Before I get into detail on the future possibilities I
think it is important to cover some of the background on
the history of Latin America and how it has become what it
     The original inhabitants of Latin America were
Mongols that crossed the Bering Straits Land Bridge 20,000
years ago.5  The development of the different tribes
varied.   Some remained savage and nomadic while others
developed advanced civilizations.   Examples are the Aztecs
in Mexico, the Mayans in Central America, and the Incas in
western South America .   However, with the discovery by
Columbus and the subsequent exploration of Latin America,
conquest of all of Latin America was complete at the close
of the 16th Century.   Five European powers colonized Latin
America with an emphasis on extracting wealth for export
to Europe.   Indigenous people became slave labor.  Very
little effort was made at long term development and
economic growth.   Most of the limited road networks
created by the original inhabitants of Latin America soon
were reclaimed by the jungle resulting in even fewer
available markets.   This was to be the situation for most
of Latin America well into the 19th Century.
     The United States entered into the Latin American
political arena with the publishing of the Monroe Doctrine
in 1823.   We officially recognized the independence of
Latin America and announced that interference from powers
outside the western hemisphere would not be tolerated.
This did not preclude United States intervention and
expansion in Latin America as our prominence in the world
grew.   Strategic geography and the need for raw materials
became important factors that influenced our Latin America
strategy.6  "Gunboat Diplomacy" became the standard
throughout the Caribbean and Central American nations.
The United States had in effect become the only major
world power exercising external influence on the internal
rule of Latin American nations.   The protection of United
States agricultural and mining interests in Latin America
became the basis for episodes of military intervention
that continue to serve as obstacles to improved relations
with several Latin American countries.
     The current United States National Security Strategy
states "By maintaining an environment of reasonable
stability and open trade and communication with Latin
America, political, economic, and social forces should
eventually work to our advantage."  This constitutes a
passive strategy based on hope and ignores the reality of
the Latin American debt, the drug situation, insurgency
movements, and especially the plight of the majority of
Latin American people.   The per capita income of Latin
America has declined over the past 20 years.   The
population is growing faster than almost any other region
of the globe.   Land reform in most countries remains an
elusive objective.
     The economic picture in Latin America appears dismal.
Heavy borrowing to create a manufacturing base, to develop
oil and mineral deposits, and to begin needed social
programs was initiated in almost every country.   The
profits and revenues that were expected from oil
production were not realized when the price fell on oil.
The lack of markets within the Western Hemisphere for
agricultural products drove Latin America into direct
competition with the United States in European and Asian
markets.   Social programs tended to benefit only the urban
populace.   Lack of a land reform program has resulted in
the inability of many rural inhabitants to feed themselves
and has driven hundreds of thousands more people into the
urban centers overburdening the already overwhelmed social
programs.   The United States strategy ignores the current
and future implications of this dilemma.
     This brings us to the one specific area of the
contribution that The United States Army National Guard
can make to this complex plan.   I will address several
major areas of support that is available individually
beginning with road building.
     The United States Army National Guard has a
substantial amount of Engineer units.   They consist of
both combat and general purpose Engineers with all the
equipment necessary to provide a modern transportation
road network throughout those areas of Latin America that
are lacking in this vital area.   The United States has
trouble relating to the problems that the lack of an
adequate road system presents to the people of Latin
America.   In an agricultural society all depends on
getting the produce to a market.   In many places in Latin
America this is not possible.   Villages can become little
more than self sustaining without the opportunity to sell
crops for the hard currency to establish schools, medical
centers, and social programs.   The result is a countryside
of villages on the very edge of survival.
     The other side of this coin is just as troublesome.
Land use remains the same year after year, harvest after
harvest.   No crop rotation takes place, so nutrients are
taken from the soil every year.   The lack of hard currency
and the inaccessibility of the farm land due to a lack of
roads prohibits the use of fertilizers and other modern
techniques, equipment, and products that would make the
land more efficient and better able to support more
people.   Just the one small area of road building would
reap immeasurable benefits to the Latin American nations.
     Very few United States Army National Guard Engineer
units actually deploy to Latin America though.   The
reasons for this will be covered later when I address how
the current training in Latin America is managed, but let
it suffice to say that much more can be done.   Much
progress has been made with only a fraction of the
available units employed.   This could change overnight to
be expanded to a much greater effort by the United States
Army National Guard Engineer units.
     Another area is communications.   Many areas of Latin
America don't even have rudimentary communications
capabilities.   This creates the kind of societal isolation
in the countryside that impedes development and
improvement of the quality of life.   It also enforces a
tendency to look inward within the communities where this is
prevalent rather than a more national perspective that is
needed for nation building.   United States Army National
Guard communications units are capable of establishing
communications networks throughout even the most remote
areas of Latin America given the time and materials.
     One area that may be controversial is education in
democratic ideals and concepts.   United States Army
National Guard Civil Affairs units are more than capable
of establishing this program to inform the citizens of
Latin American nations of their role, responsibility, and
power in a democracy.   This in conjunction with reliable
communications, local authorities, and accessibility by
outside law enforcement agencies will assist in expelling
the tendency for the strong to rule the weak.   It will
also assist in shifting the focus of the people to a more
national level.
     Water purification may seem a simple area until you
realize that lack of clean potable water is one of the
greatest health problems in many areas of Latin America.
The requirement for medical assistance could be greatly
reduced if simple sanitation measures were taught and
practiced.   A good beginning would be the United States
Army National Guard reverse osmosis water purification
units.   The equipment and personnel are available to use
on current water sources while Engineers dig new wells
away from sewage areas and other contaminating areas.
     Finally, medical assistance is one of the most
significant areas of aid we could possibly provide.   The
tangible results are healthier people.   The intangible
result is the goodwill it promotes.  United States Army
National Guard doctors and nurses are scheduled as fillers
during leave time for active component personnel at  Army
Hospitals in CONUS.   A shift in priorities is all that
would be necessary.
     I have listed just a few major areas where
significant assistance and positive results could be
achieved.   From this list alone a great deal of nation
building could take place, but my point is it is only the
tip of the iceberg.   With a little imagination and a
redirection of some of the money we spend questionably as
foreign aid we could realize a truly significant return on
our investment of sweat and United States dollars.   We
could also be seen as a partner in the development of
Latin America while at the same time countering the Cuban
influence there as well.
     One area that would definitely need changing is the
way the program of United States Army National Guard
training Latin America is managed.   I don't mean to
insinuate there is something wrong with it now.   In fact,
it works very well within the current scope of operations.
Only units with a primary or contingency mission in Latin
America currently deploy on training exercises to Latin
America.   This serves to keep the available pool to draw
from fairly small.   An expanded program of United States
Army National Guard involvement would require an expansion
of the management system that supports it.   Currently only
a handful of full time Guardsmen at National Guard
Headquarters in Washington D.C. and in Panama manage the
entire program with the assistance of support agencies
throughout the United States.   This would not work with a
full scale effort by an increased number of United States
Army National Guard units deployed to multiple areas
throughout Latin America.   I am not encouraging the
creation of a massive headquarters to control this, just
an expansion of what currently works.
     To bring this all together under an umbrella
framework I need to remind the reader of the basic reason
why I feel all of this is important and necessary.   The
Future.   We have the opportunity to shape the future now,
or be shaped by it later.   I prefer to do the shaping.   It
may seem a bit pompous to advocate helping Latin America
now that it is perceived that they may be needed in the
future, but that's reality.   To tell the leaders of Latin
America that our motivation is anything less than a common
interest would be doing them and us a disservice.   I think
it should be sold to the American people just this way as
well.   Hiding our true reasons behind flowery slogans and
political posturing leaves us vulnerable to failure down
the road.   I think history has shown us that mutually
beneficial arrangements succeed more often than handouts
and charity.
1"The National Guard in Latin America," National Guard
 Magazine, Gwen R. Rhodes and Steven S. Collins,  (Mar,
 1990), p.24.
2James D. Rudolph, Cuba, A Country Study, American
 University Press, Washington, D.C.,  (1985), p.211.
3Frank McNeil, War and Peace in Central America, Charles
 Scribner and Son, New York,  (1985) p.34.
4James D. Rudolph, Cuba, A Country Study., American
 University Press, Washington, D.C.  (1985) p.312.
5Jan Read, The New Conquistadores, Evans Brothers LTD,
 London,  (1980) p.10.
6William Jeffries, Geography and National Power, United
 States Naval  Institute Press, Anapolis, MD,  (1958) p.29.
1.  The White House.  National Security Strategy of The
United States.  Washington, D.C., 1988.
2.  McNeil, Frank.  War and Peace in Central America.  New
York:  Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988.
3.  Read, Jan.  The New Conquistadors.  London:  Evans
Brothers Limited, 1980.
4.  The American University.  Cuba, A Country Study.
Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985.
5.  Jeffries, William.  Geography and National Power.
Annapolis, Maryland. United States Naval Institute, 1958.
6.  National Guard Association of The United States.
National Guard Magazine.  Washington, D.C.,  March 1990.

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