PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti –
The Paraguayan military has a tradition of uncommon courage and tenacity proved in two of the Western Hemisphere’s most devastating conflicts, but in recent years the Paraguayan military has dedicated itself to more humanitarian efforts culminating in January 2011 with their country’s first United Nations deployment.
A Paraguayan peace-keeping force of approximately 70 soldiers, 15 sailors and 15 airmen deployed to provide engineering assistance in post-earthquake Haiti. This deployment, Paraguay’s first in over 20 years, has been a great success due, in part, to support provided by the Massachusetts National Guard.
“Since the State Partnership Program’s inception the Massachusetts National Guard, both Army and Air, have worked with great success in the collaborative development of the Paraguayan military. The State Partnership Program’s benefits are not limited to the Paraguayan borders; rather those benefits extend to wherever our partner nation is called to duty. They are providing exceptional military support to the nation and people of Haiti,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard.
For the past ten years the Massachusetts National Guard has worked with the Paraguayan military through the National Guard’s State Partnership Program. The partnership is based on the mutual exchange of professional knowledge and cooperative participation in military training and exercises. Carter is a key supporter of the Massachusetts-Paraguay SSP and participates annually in a command visit to Paraguay. This year his trip to Paraguay will coincide with the country’s bicentennial celebration, but Carter has chosen to supplement that trip with a visit to Haiti to review the accomplishments of the deployed Paraguayan peace-keepers first-hand.
Carter, accompanied by State Command Sgt. Major David Costa and Col. William Tyminski, Assistant Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Policy, spent approximately 24-hours in Haiti, arriving on the morning of March 28 and departing the following day. The Paraguayan peace-keeping force, a company of multi-role engineers, had their own base camp established at the United Nations multi-national military base in Port au Prince. Carter and those accompanying him received a tour of the Paraguayan camp, reviewed security and base logistics, spoke with the service members and received briefings from the Paraguayan leadership led by their commander, Col. Milciades Rojas. They also took their meals with the Paraguayans soldiers in their camp.
The visiting members of the Massachusetts National Guard participated in a Paraguayan tactical convoy through Port au Prince, where they observed the results of recent efforts by the Paraguayans, the most noteworthy being the clearing and reconditioning of important thoroughfares within the city.
The Paraguayan contingent is principally charged with repairing earthquake-damage to the Haitian capital through horizontal and vertical engineering projects. They also provide water purification services for several of the units occupying the United Nations military base in Port au Prince.
“It was heartening to see the Paraguayans working so diligently to improve the quality of life of the Haitian people. They demonstrated commendable character and leadership with their steadfast service,” said Carter.
Of course, a deployment devoid of deficiencies and detriments would not be a true deployment. Discussions with Paraguayan soldiers and leaders revealed three pressing problems. The absence of fuel pumps for vehicles, a shortage of replacement parts of equipment and incorrect tires mounted on their vehicles.
Despite those problems, Costa assessed the Paraguayan situation quite favorably.
“The mission that these Soldiers are performing here in Haiti is of critical importance to this nation’s rebuilding. The troops are performing brilliantly and are in high morale. They display the utmost in professionalism and discipline.”
“Haiti is finally waking up from a long nightmare thanks to the valuable contributions of the international community,” said Col. Candido Nunez, a commander in the Paraguayan peace-keeping unit. “All of this was made possible by the support of our partners in Massachusetts. Without them, it would not have been possible for us to us help our Haitian brothers.”The Massachusetts National Guard has assisted the Paraguayan peace-keepers prepare for missions like this for more than two years. Many detachments of Massachusetts Guardsmen have traveled to Paraguay to share experiences and education on management of military staffs, the conduct of humanitarian missions and the deployment process. The successes realized by the Paraguayan peace-keepers in Haiti are a source of great pride to both the nation of Paraguay and the commonwealth of Massachusetts.