Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Key to the Heart of Colombia

It is well known that Texans are a very proud and fun group of individuals and it was no different for Ambassador Brownfield, the US Ambassador to Colombia. He is a man with a big personality and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer this country and this particular mission. This all became very much apparent when I met him for the first time at the Helicopter landing zone in Santa Marta for our tour of the mission project sites. He had great information to offer on each site and he seemed thrilled to be able to look into the crystal ball at what we hope to offer each town once each project is complete.
Following our tour the Ambassador, CAPT Towns and I returned to the ship with just enough time to freshen up a bit and head back down to the Hanger Bay for a Press Conference attended by numerous Colombian Media Outlets. It was another great opportunity to provide the press and their readers a glimpse of this terrific mission and the great work being done for those in need.
Over 45 Colombian Distinguished Visitors as well as the ships wardroom and the Leading Chief Petty Officers gathered together on this night to meet and greet fellow countrymen and regional neighbors. CAPT Towns and I welcomed our guest and opened the floor to both the Ambassador and General Padilla-Commander of Nicaraguan Military Forces. Both offered insightful commentary regarding the significance of this mission and the relationship between the United States and Colombia. In the crowd you could see the gestures and head-nods moving in agreement to the dialogue of friendship between neighbors with common interests. The Ambassador, emphasized the need for increased dialogue at all levels of government to bring our two countries closer together. General Padilla put it in straight military terms in highlighting the need for our governments and our militaries to work together, closer and more often to further regional security and stability. He recounted the last time an American ship came to Colombia. He said, “In the 1990’s another American ship came to the pacific coast and stopped in Colombia to provide Humanitarian Assistance. The citizens of the country did not receive the crew with open arms but rather with great protest against their presence. Look at how the times have changed, at how the relationship has changed.” It is true. The times have changed considerably, from a time of animosity to one of friendship and most importantly partnership.
As we concluded the remarks, the Mayor of Santa Marta and the Governor of Magdalena presented myself and the CO with a tremendous honor, the Key to Santa Marta and the Cold Cross. We received these gifts on behalf of the entire CONTINUING PROMISE TEAM. It is a great honor to have been able to represent the team in receiving this honor, and I felt humbled to have been given the opportunity to lead such a talented group of unselfish men and women on this mission. This mission is about giving and it is time to return to the task at hand.

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