By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
July 1, 2010 - Military partnerships between the United States and Colombia are "absolutely vital" to global peace and security, the nation's top military officer said yesterday.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to graduates of the Colombian naval cadet school in Cartegena, Colombia.
Mullen was in Colombia to reaffirm Washington's commitment to the country's effort to counter the illegal drug trade, as well as to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the country's naval academy.
"Our nations face many, many challenges, and ... partnerships, exercises and joint operations we share are absolutely vital to the world we live in," Mullen said at the ceremony.
"Our ability to engage and understand one another is the most important way we can achieve long-lasting peace and stability in our world," he added. "We must build strong partnerships with our neighbors."
Colombia's partnership is important to the United States, Mullen said. He cited the country's growing role in international security, noting its ongoing commitment to the United Nations mission on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. Such commitments "certainly demonstrate Colombia's growing role in global security," he said.
Mullen also lauded Colombia's support in relief efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti earlier this year. "Everyone joined together to focus on how our nations could help the people of Haiti," he noted.
The admiral also acknowledged gains the two nations have made against drug trafficking in the region, calling terrorism as "one of our most significant mutual challenges."
"I see the same kinds of challenges in Afghanistan, and I also see them in Mexico," he said in a news conference yesterday following the graduation. "And there's a great deal to be learned from the success that has been seen here in Colombia. Still, there are conventional challenges here in the region, and they potentially affect us all in the hemisphere."
Mullen praised Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for his leadership and work to achieve security for his people. Mullen also said he looks forward to building on the U.S.-Colombian partnership under President-elect Juan Manuel Santos, who takes office in August.
"So whether we are delivering humanitarian aid, fighting terrorism or rescuing hostages, only together will we overcome the challenges of our time," the chairman said.
Mullen urged the cadets to listen, learn and lead, three words he says are important for everyone in uniform to understand and practice.
"Only by learning from each other can we understand how our capabilities complement each other, and only then can we lead," he explained. "The United States and many other nations are certainly learning a lot from Colombia."
The ultimate goal for Colombia's government, Mullen said, is to care for its people. Providing better living standards, creating jobs and improving education opportunities are the goal of any democratic nation, he said.
"In the end, most governments want to take care of their people, providing them a better standard of living, jobs and education," Mullen said during the ceremony. "Parents everywhere want to raise their children in peace and provide them a better standard of living than they had themselves. These are our common ideals, our common goals [and] simple concepts that are crucial foundations to lasting friendships and a stable economy."