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U.S.-D.R. Military Cooperation and Capacity Building is put into action in the face of COVID-19
8 MINUTE READ
April 28, 2020

The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo has over 18 offices that work to strengthen the bilateral cooperation between the United States and the Dominican Republic.  One of those is the Department of Defense’s Office of Security Cooperation (OSC) which promotes U.S. foreign policy by enhancing the long-term bilateral defense relationship between the D.R. and the U.S.  The OSC manages several Department of Defense programs and is the main liaison between the U.S. military and the Dominican Ministry of Defense.

Meet Lieutenant Colonel Guillermo Rojas Jr., Army Section Chief for OSC who shares with us his story of how the U.S. has engaged with our partners in the Dominican Republic.

A man in military uniform.

Lieutenant Colonel Guillermo Rojas Jr. was born and raised in Eaglepass, Texas.  Prior to serving in the Dominican Republic, Lieutenant Colonel Rojas served in the Republic of Korea, Iraq, Panama, and in other assignments across the United States.  He has a Master’s Degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Arizona and has received numerous awards, including a Meritorious Service Medal.

What is your opinion on how our assistance/cooperation has enabled the Dominican Republic to deal with the COVID outbreak?

The training and resources provided by the USG has enabled the Emergency Operations Center (COE) to be ready to respond to a natural disaster or an unforeseen emergency such as COVID19.  The USG has sponsored numerous trainings for the COE conducted in the Dominican Republic and in different countries in the Western Hemisphere.  One important training was the Incident Command System (ICS) that trained the COE on effective and efficient domestic incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure.

 

A group of men sitting down on a table. A large logo in the middle.

Tell us about your role working with the government of the Dominican Republic.

As the Army Section Chief, I am responsible for planning and executing Army Security Cooperation activities with our Dominican partners.  I am also responsible for all the International Military Education and Training programs for all services, and I am the primary interlocutor between the Office of Security Cooperation and the Emergency Operations Center (COE).

A group of men walking and talking, some of them in military uniform.
Lieutenant Colonel Guillermo Rojas after a meeting during the humanitarian and disaster preparedness exercise in May 2019.

How have security cooperation efforts prepared the Dominican Republic in the fight against COVID-19?

According to Mr. Erdwin Olivares, Deputy Director of the COE, without the training and resources from the USG, the COE would not have been ready to respond to COVID-19.  The COE has applied all the lessons learned from training and our donated resources to combat COVID 19 and assist the Dominican populace.

Tell us about a time when you witnessed first-hand the positive impact of U.S. assistance in the Dominican Republic.

During Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias (FAHUM) in May 2019 I witnessed a simulated earthquake exercise that caused damage to buildings and HAZMAT spillage at the COE.  I witnessed how the COE put into practice the training and resources from the USG.  Now they are using this training in a real world crisis (COVID 19).  Every time I talk to the COE leadership, they thank us for all the support we have provided.

A group of first responders participate in an emergency response excercise.
During the disaster preparedness exercise in May 2019, emergency personnel practice an earthquake response simulation.

What have you enjoyed the most about the Dominican Republic?

What I have enjoyed the most from the Dominican Republic is its people.  Dominicans are always happy and have a great attitude, even during hard times.  I will never forget this assignment since it has made me a better person.  In the future, whenever I am having a bad day, I will recall my assignment in the Dominican Republic to liven up my day.