REPORT ON UPORFA REUNION
Bogota and Qimbaya, Colombia
7-12 October, 2009
The Chief, US Delegation (ROA), MG Robert Smith III, and the President of UPORFA, COL Alfred Michaud, arrived in Bogota on 6 October, 2009. Early arrival was dictated by the possibility of a Courtesy Call by MG Smith upon a Colombian General Officer and the final authorization for transportation from Bogota to Armenia and return being coordinated by the UPORFA President and the Host Nation. The use of military air transport was approved on the 8th of October, with transport to be effected on 9 October.
On 8 October, we were transported to the 900th Naval Infantry Battalion area. This is comparable to a US Marine Corps Battalion, with the exception that this unit has an assigned Medical Detachment, which treats personnel who have been injured by land mines and other lethal traps. They have assigned Doctors, Therapists and other Medical Assistants. Patients stay with their assigned unit during treatment and until they are either returned to duty or given an education (either formal or vocational) to assure them of employment. The
Colombian Government is building high rise apartments and giving these injured personnel a home for life! There are a total of 80 patients with amputated limbs in the country at this time. Twenty two were in this unit. We saw their Therapists in action, personnel working out on therapeutic equipment and some just resting. It was an eye opening experience! We were given a complete tour of the installation, including the living areas, where arms were nearby and ready. Each company was either training or performing physical training exercises. At the closure of the visit, we were treated to soft drinks and music played by the troop members. They were very good and they also perform for the villagers when they are in an area of operations in a friendship building mode. This was an experience to remember.
General (Ret) Nestor Ramirez Mejia was called to active service to evaluate the conference and to provide liaison with the General Officer (US) Delegate to the Reserve Forum. General Ramirez has performed duties in the US on five different occasions.
The Reserve Forum officially began on 9 October with a reception, welcoming addresses, and cultural folk dances and music provided by the local Youth Orchestra.
The two day Forum was highlighted by presentations from: LTC Mauricio Moreno of the Office of Strategic Communications who spoke of the need for solid communications that the masses can understand and rely upon - an area where trained Reserve Personnel can excel.)
General Freddy Padilla de Leon, Commander of all Colombian Armed Forces, lauded the Reserves for their efforts and expertise in informing the population of terrorist activities and working with them to improve their their personal standard of living by providing direct aid ( Medical, Engineering, Legal protection) to the community.
General Jorge Balesteros Rodriguez, Commander of the Colombian Air Force, reported that the Air Force, with the aid of the United States, has performed 6,754 hours of reconnaissance and surveillance missions. Air Force Reserve Personnel provided invaluable assistance.
Admiral Moreno Moreno, JCS Colombian Navy, reported that the War on Terrorism and Drug Trafficking began in 2002 and should reach the point of no return for the drug traffickers in 2010. He stressed the importance of leadership, commitment and moral rectitude in a Reserve Officer. This is necessary to help improve the security of the nation.
Colonel Oscar Orlando Lopez, Director of Integral Action, advised all Reservists that this was the Year of Respect for Human Rights and that those rights should be observed in any activity performed in uniform.
General Nestor Ramirez Mejia reported on the need for a National Reserve Officer Organization and Colonel Dario Ortiz Garcia, Commander of all Professional Reserves, reported on his mission to unite all reserve organizations into one single, nationwide reserve entity representing all services. This would give the Citizen Soldier an official voice with their community as well as giving them the advantage of larger numbers and thus a louder voice when speaking to their elected officials.
General Oscar Enrique Gonzalez Pena, Commander of all Army Forces, reported on the gains made against the FARC terrorists and their practice of abducting citizens for ransom or, if they had males in the family, said males were then pressured into becoming soldiers for their ranks. He talked about elected officials being held for Exchange for captured FARC members. He told the story of one in particular - who managed to help many captured males make their way back into civilization. His previous travels into the area had given him a good sense of the topography and he set up an effective escape route. Many managed to escape and their debriefing gave the Army an idea of where he was being held. Prior to his rescue, he had to watch his 13 year old son decapitated for not being a good FARC soldier and his 6 year old daughter raped and killed for not complying with instructions. He was rescued hours from a scheduled time of being executed. The General then presented the individual to those present. He gave an impassioned report on what he had seen and suffered, while a captive. A Q&A period followed. He left the attendees electrified!
Reserve Lieutenant Colonel Alvaro Aparicio, Executive Officer to the Commandant of Military Reserves, submitted the plan for the Incorporation of the" Asociacion de Professional Oficiales de Reserva", which will replace ASPORPAZ, which is affiliated with UPORFA, for ratification. He also submitted a plan for management and financing of the new corporation. Neither proposal passed, but they were sent to committee to iron out the differences.
UPORFA presentations were made by:
- Colonel Angel Perez on "SOUTHCOM's Plan to Support the Latin American Nations",
- MG Robert Smith III, Chief, US Delegation, on the "Organization of the Reserve Officers Association of the US",
- Colonel Alfred Michaud, President, UPORFA, gave an "Introduction to UPORFA",
- LTC Eduardo Stafforini , President, UNOR (Argentina), made a presentation on the new "Argentina Reserve Officer Program".
The Forum ended with a closure session and a cultural presentation.
For UPORFA, being an Non Government Organization type organization, the venture was a success -and as a new country was added to our roster. Chile was not represented, as their Government did not have time to approve the attendance of their reservists. We hope they will join us in Buenos Aires in September 2010.
For the US and Argentina, they had a win - win situation. Being a direct representative of a government, they were afforded preferred status and placed in a prominent place in front of the Delegates. This enhanced each nation's stature in the eyes of the Delegates.
A complete report on the Forum is being prepared by the International Secretary General, COL (Ret) Alexander Gerry, and will be sent to you for your permanent records.
Colonel (Ret) Alfred L Michaud