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News | Sept. 1, 2022

Connecticut National Guard Leaders Build Bonds in Uruguay

By Sgt. Matthew Lucibello 130th Public Affairs Detachment

HARTFORD, Conn. – U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Francis Evon, the Connecticut adjutant general, and other Connecticut Army National Guard officers visited Montevideo, Uruguay, Aug. 6-10, to strengthen bonds with the Uruguayan Armed Forces.

Uruguay, renowned for upholding the values of democracy and peace in South America, has partnered with Connecticut through the State Partnership Program since August 2000. 

Uruguay is also a strong supporter of U.N. peacekeeping operations, having participated in 23 peacekeeping missions since 1952. Uruguay’s largest single current contribution to the United Nations is its support of over 900 peacekeepers to the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“One out of every 3,000 Uruguayans is on a U.N. peacekeeping mission at any given time,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Juan Villarreal, the Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative program manager at the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay. “Twenty percent of the armed forces, and nearly all Army officers, have participated in at least one mission.”

The Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program builds interoperability and cooperation between host nation countries and the United States through military-to-military engagements, such as joint training exercises, bilateral exchanges and key leader engagements. Each state’s National Guard is aligned with at least one partner nation. Currently, there are 85 partnerships with 93 nations.

For 22 years, Uruguay and Connecticut have trained together, most recently when members of the 192nd Engineer Battalion conducted counter-improvised explosive device training in Montevideo with Uruguayan Army soldiers July 17-20. Leaders of the Connecticut National Guard and Armed Forces of Uruguay frequently visit each other to share experiences and lessons learned through training and operations conducted by each force.

This trip was Evon’s first to Uruguay since he became the adjutant general in July 2018.

Evon visited the chief of mission’s residence and met with Chargé d’Affaires Karl Rios, Deputy Chief of Mission Eric Geelan and U.S. Air Force Col. Gary Symon, senior defense official of the Office of Defense Cooperation. After that, he visited the Estado Mayor De la Defensa, part of the Uruguayan Ministry of Defense, and numerous Uruguayan military installations, including the National Peace Operations Training School of Uruguay, where Uruguayan service members train for U.N. peacekeeping missions.

While touring these sites, Evon met with senior officials of the Uruguayan Army, Air Force and Navy, including Army Commander Gen. Gerardo Fregossi, Air Force Commander Gen. Luis De León, and Navy Commander Adm. Jorge Wilson. He also met with Chief of the Joint Staff Gen. Rodolfo Pereyra and Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Luis Mangini.

Evon and his staff were briefed by their Uruguayan counterparts on the capabilities, equipment and missions of each organization and discussed ways to incorporate the Connecticut National Guard in future joint engagements. Evon also presented Defense Meritorious Service Medals to officers from each Uruguayan service who served as attachés to the United States.

Evon was presented with the medal of 18 May 1811, the second-highest military award of the Uruguayan Army, in recognition of the Guard’s support of Uruguay throughout their partnership.

The trip concluded with a visit to the Legislative Palace of Uruguay, where Evon talked with Uruguayan senators and Vice President Beatriz Argimón about mutual defense interests and ways to collaborate in the future.

Lastly, Evon attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cementerio del Norte to commemorate Uruguay’s fallen airmen. All the Uruguayan service chiefs, Minister of Defense Javier García and the President of the Republic Luis Lacalle Pou attended.