SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. K. K. Chinn, U.S. Army South commanding general, visited Soldiers from Joint Task Force-Bravo July 17-19, 2015, to talk with troops and review U.S. and Honduran efforts to counter transnational organized crime.
Chinn began his trip with a town hall for JTF-Bravo Soldiers, which clarified mission priorities and set the context for his visit.
"Our number one priority right now is CTOC," Chinn said, using the shorthand for "countering transnational organized crime," a top priority for U.S. Southern Command and subordinate units.
Chinn listed some of the threats posed by the region's organized crime networks and stated that JTF-Bravo's efforts, and those of partner nations, help prevent illicit activities from crossing into the southern borders of the U.S.
He also underscored the importance of developing U.S. partnerships with Central American nations, which helps strengthen each other's capabilities.
"One of the first things, and the most important thing, that we have to do is build relationships and trust," Chinn said. "We have to do this at all levels--at the tactical level, at the operational level, and at the strategic level."
After establishing these priorities, the general flew to Mocoron the following day to learn how U.S. and Honduran forces are countering transnational organized crime and building partnerships in the remote area of Gracias a Dios.
During this visit, Chinn and his staff received a briefing from Honduran Army Colonel Jose Angel Juarez, Commander of the 5th Battalion based out of Mocoron. Juarez discussed his battalion's mission as a "land shield," working to counter narco-trafficking, defend the Honduran border, and protect the environment. He noted that the battalion's recent highlights include the destruction of illicit landing strips used by criminals, the repossession of drugs and weapons, and reforestation projects.
Chinn commended the 5th Battalion's efforts to build trust with the local community in Gracias a Dios and emphasized the importance of this mission.
Following the briefing, Chinn and his staff met with U.S. Soldiers and an Airman to learn about JTF-Bravo's efforts to increase the fuel storage capacity at Mocoron.
They also met with a representative from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Southern Command, to learn about the MAGTF's efforts to construct barracks and improve the runway at Mocoron, thus making it possible for fixed-wing aircraft to land there.
The combination of these two projects will increase the ability of U.S. and Honduran forces to stop the flow of illicit materials through this remote eastern region of Honduras.
Another key aspect of Chinn's visit was simply meeting with Soldiers to answer their questions and provide senior mentorship.
During his town hall, he fielded questions on topics such as resources, education, training and leadership.
When asked about the flow of resources to SOUTHCOM and the Army's plans to reduce its overall force strength by 40,000 Soldiers, Chinn took the opportunity to explain the funding process from a strategic perspective.
He noted how the Army begins by identifying the largest threats and then allocates resources in proportion to those threats. He also discussed the need to balance resources across three categories--personnel, training, and research and development--and emphasized the long-term importance of resourcing the third category of technology.
These competing demands require leaders to make "tough calls" when deciding how to spend finite resources, he said.
Another key theme Chinn addressed was the imperative of training one's replacement.
"What's [my] job as a Soldier?" he asked. "To train my replacement to be better than me....If you make sure your replacement is better than you, we will continue to have the best Army in the world."
Chinn was accompanied by Command Sgt. Maj. Carlos Olvera, Army South command sergeant major, who also fielded questions from Soldiers and who emphasized the importance of leadership, especially among non-commissioned officers.
Olvera referenced a recent experience of his concerning leadership, one that left a strong impression. He attended a function in which a senior leader was asked to give an address to service members; rather than deliver personal remarks, the leader simply recited the NCO Creed.
"If you follow this, it leads well," Olvera said, referring to the Creed.
The general concluded his remarks by challenging JTF-Bravo Soldiers to do three things:
"Think like a leader all the time, do the right thing, and have a positive attitude," he said.
Army South's mission is to "conduct and support multinational operations and security cooperation in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility to counter transnational threats and strengthen regional security in defense of the [U.S.] homeland."
Chinn took command of Army South June 4, 2015; this was the first of what he hopes will be many visits to Soto Cano during his tenure.