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Army South receives award for deployment, celebrates 100-year historical milestone

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Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Cervantes, Army South command sergeant major, attaches the Army Superior Unit Award streamer on the U.S. Army South unit colors Oct. 4 during a ceremony on Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Cervantes, Army South command sergeant major, attaches the Army Superior Unit Award streamer on the U.S. Army South unit colors Oct. 4 during a ceremony on Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- U.S. Army South received the Army Superior Unit Award on Oct. 4 for its performance during Operation Unified Response, exactly 100 years to the day original elements of the command (10th U.S. Army Infantry Regiment) arrived in Panama in 1911 to provide additional security during the construction of the canal.

The command, with a long history of supporting the region, deployed to Haiti in 2010 to provide security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief following the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck that country on January 12. 

The major earthquake was considered Haiti’s most severe disaster in more than 200 years. According to Haitian government officials, the epicenter of the earthquake was just outside the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince and left up to 316,000 people dead and 1.6 million homeless. 

The deployment to Haiti represents Army South’s historical commitment and long standing support to partner nations in the region. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, in 1904, sent Army officers to Panama to help govern the Canal Zone. Later in October 1911, the 10th U.S. Army Infantry regiment was sent to the Panama Canal to form defensive fortifications and support the Isthmian Canal Commission. 

In January 2010, at the request of the Haitian government and on order from U.S. President Barack Obama, thousands of U.S. troops, including Army South, formed Joint Task Force-Haiti and provided humanitarian assistance and support with rescue operations and security for the country. 

“I am extremely proud of this command, the Soldiers, civilians and leaders who made our deployment to Haiti a success,” said Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, commander of Army South who also led the unit’s deployment and succeeded Lt. Gen. K. P. “Ken” Keen, the first commander of Joint Task Force-Haiti and former U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) military deputy commander. “Receiving the Army Superior Unit Award symbolizes that our senior leadership recognizes the important work we do every day with our partner nations to be prepared for any contingency.” 

Working with partner nations and other U.S. Department of Defense forces, Army South provided logistical, engineer, intelligence, topographic, administrative, security and humanitarian support to the government and people of Haiti. 

Army South, as the Army component command for SOUTHCOM, deployed its headquarters element and its Special Troops Battalion (now known as Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion). 

Army South received the Army Superior Unit Award not only for the personnel and elements that deployed, but for the members of the command who remained behind and continued to manage the day-to-day operations and rigorous training schedule. 

The Army Superior Unit Award was created in 1985 and is awarded by the Secretary of the Army to units which display outstanding meritorious performance in a difficult and challenging mission during a peacetime operation. 

In accordance with Army Regulation 600-8-22, Military Awards, the Army Superior Unit Award authorizes Soldiers assigned to Army South to wear the distinctive unit award insignia on their Army Service Uniform and civilians assigned to the command to wear the equivalent lapel pin. 

In addition to Army South receiving the Army Superior Unit Award, Joint Task Force-Haiti received the Joint Meritorious Unit Award from the Secretary of Defense in January 2011 for its exceptional performance in support of the joint deployment operation in 2010. The Joint Meritorious Unit Award recognized Army South Soldiers and civilians who were assigned to JTF-Haiti. 

When Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of SOUTHCOM, presented the Joint Meritorious Unit Award on January 20, he stated, “This award recognizes the high level of professionalism and dedication displayed by the Soldiers and civilians within U.S. Army South.” 

Army South received its first Army Superior Unit Award and streamer in 1994 for Operation Uphold Democracy. The award was for supporting military troops who were sent by U.S. President Bill Clinton, under United Nations Security Council Resolution 940, to remove the military regime installed by the 1991 Haitian coup d’état. 

In addition to the two Army Superior Unit Awards, which include an emblem, certificate and streamer and the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Army South has previously received seven streamers and two unit awards. Army South has awards and streamers for engagements such as Operation Just Cause, the 1989 offensive, authorized by U.S. President George H. W. Bush, to bring Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to justice, and the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation for operations during World War II. Operation Unified Response marked the first official deployment of Army South’s headquarters since its designation as the Army component command to SOUTHCOM and its relocation to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in 2003. 

The command relocated its headquarters from Panama in 1999 where it had been for almost a hundred years providing security and assistance, to Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. By 2003 the command had moved again to its current location. 

In 2008 the Army expanded the command’s size and capabilities to include an Operation Command Post and integrated Sixth U.S. Army making it capable of forming a joint task force, which it successfully executed for the deployment to Haiti in 2010. 

Army South’s mission and responsibilities have expanded exponentially since its humble beginning in 1904. Each year the command plans and supports dozens of training exercises and engagements and works closely with partner nations such as Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Peru. 

Working with the armies of these countries and other nations, Army South has been extremely successful in building partner nation capacity and supporting security operations that counter the growing 21st Century threat to peace and security from transnational criminal organizations in the Western Hemisphere. 

“Army South has a mission to conduct Theater Security Cooperation and to be prepared for contingency operations,” said Trombitas. “We’ve proven, with this deployment and with the strong allies and partners, whom we train with every year, we can conduct contingency operations and that we are prepared to respond to natural disasters, conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, support peace keeping operations and counter illicit trafficking in our area of responsibility.”