Southern Command, AF South leaders visit deployed troops

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Matthew McGovern
  • Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
Senior leaders from Southern Command and Air Forces Southern kicked off a week-long tour Dec. 8 to visit forward-deployed personnel and assist nearby communities in seven Latin American countries during the holiday season. 

A C-21 from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., carried the group to Forward Operating Location Comalapa, El Salvador; then to Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras; then to FOL Manta, Ecuador. 

The Holiday Tour, then will include visits to Georgetown, Guyana; Paramaribo, Suriname; FOL Curacao in the Netherland Antilles; and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

Lt. Gen. Glenn Spears, the U.S. Southern Command deputy commander; Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Balch; and Chief Master Sgt. Lloyd Hollen, the command chief for the 12th Air Force, are praising, addressing concerns and presenting awards to servicemembers. 

"You are part of an expeditionary team; Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines," General Spears said. "We work every day with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security. You have seen operations here in country and in Central America where we, the Defense Department are in support of other U.S. government agencies. 

"Please recognize that what you do as part of that team is very important," he said. "It's important to the security of the United States, it's important to the stability of this region because we are in this home of the Americans and it's important for our future. I appreciate what you're doing, we're very proud of what you're doing and however you celebrate the holidays, do so safely and please know that we're very proud and grateful for what you're doing." 

Also, the senior leaders gave servicemembers a taste of home by handing out the first of 350 dozen cookies donated from other servicemembers, spouses and people from the surrounding community near Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. 

"The cookie donation is a great idea. It shows the troops that no matter what time of year, they are all in the hearts and minds of our leadership," said Capt. Kevin Deibler, a tour coordinator from Davis-Monthan AFB. 

After visiting with military personnel, the group was transported in a UH-60 helicopter to Ajuterique, Honduras, which is home to 11,000 people affected by recent flooding. The group handed out food-laden gift baskets to the ones hardest hit. 

"This is fabulous," said General Spears.  "It's a chance to share our blessings from the U.S. with our family here in Honduras." 

Mario Palencia, the mayor of Ajuterique, and Maria Martinez, governor of Comayagua expressed their gratitude for the joint American troops effort and helped pass out the baskets. 

"Bless the people of the United States," said Altagracia Hernandez, a local resident from Ajuterique. "We need all of the products in the basket. We're very happy they are here, and we know they're here to help."

As the tour progresses, the group from Southern Command and Air Force South has an itinerary that continues troop recognition and local humanitarian assistance in Latin America.

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