“Venerable Bhante Wimala’s visit to US Central Command (USCENTCOM) Headquarters was a unique opportunity for the coalition officers of 63 countries to interact with such an inspiring personality. The officers had the rare opportunity to share their views and ideas with Bhante Wimala on various subjects related to disaster relief and humanitarian missions around the globe”. “The coalition officers were very enthusiastic to share their experience and views with Bhante and at the end we all were highly impressed and satisfied with this very interesting interactive session”.
– Lt. Col. Ataul Hasan Senior military representative of Bangladesh
On January 7, 2008 I visited the US Coalition headquarters in MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, Florida. I arrived at the airbase with Mr. Robert Rowen who organized my visit and was greeted by Brigadier General Mark Wheeler, the senior representative of New Zealand. General Wheeler took us on a tour of the area known as Coalition Village where senior military representatives from over 63 countries have their offices.
Later that day I took part in a forum attended by 22 Senior National Representatives of the Coalition Forces, (Army, Navy and the Air Force), stationed at the Central Command base.
The military forces of many countries have found themselves being called in as first responders during disasters and crisis. We discussed the problems they face in their relief efforts at the time of disasters. One major subject of discussion was the role of NGOs, (Non-Governmental Agencies), the military and the government and the problems of coordinating efforts. Many officers were interested to know how one could prepare to deal with stress and emotional challenges of a major disaster. It was an incredible discussion since many of the Colonels and Generals had actual stories to share. Furthermore, they could relate to my experience and views.
I had the opportunity to meet senior military representatives from Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Finland, Bulgaria, Pakistan, Kenya, Czech Republic, Bangladesh and so on. I was impressed by a friendly and warm welcome from all of them.
At the end of my tour I had many thoughts about my experience. First, what an amazing experience to see high ranking military officers from around the world and from all international forces, Air Force, Navy and Army, working together in one building. It was like a little military UN except without the politics. They work like a family, tied by the common desire to help other countries dealing with disaster and strife and they too are based in a foreign country themselves. They eat together, socialize and work together.
The military organization is highly disciplined, united by honor, integrity and professionalism. On the battle field a soldier does not leave a fellow soldier when injured. They are taught to work as a team, to watch each other’s back.
The friendship they create, the bond they experience and the exchange of information while they are together in the Central command can definitely expand the horizons of each individual.
Meeting people from different countries and cultures and getting to know them as people and as friends can break down old prejudices and introduce ideas new to each person. I think that can help to promote peace.
I was imagining, for example, the Ethiopian general who shared a one year friendship while in the US Central Command with the Eritrean commander; each develops respect soldier to soldier. They share meals and know each other’s children. They both go back to their home countries and lead their armies. Imagine then, that their respective governments have a conflict and order the army to prepare to fight. The Ethiopian General is able to understand the humanism of the Eritrean General and vice versa.
Can they take up weapons to kill each other “How is their strategy going to be effected in planning a war” Maybe at the onset of a conflict they can contact their friend on the other side to help diffuse the situation. Maybe as members of a military brotherhood they can see themselves as just one armed force with similar missions. Maybe they influence their governments to change their position and strategy for solving the problems. Isn’t it a wonderful dream?
I felt that something important is happening in the US Central Command Coalition Village. The usual role of military is to fight with each other, these military leaders’ task is to fight those who violate human rights and to work for world peace and aid the world in disaster assistance.
Daily they talk about common enemies of human values, peace and democracy. If the 63 nations feel as one military the friendships they develop may clear paths towards world peace. That will be a very good thing for the world. The military leaders might be in a position to teach and give good advice to the politicians who would preach hate and separation.
I had not given much thought to the possible ramifications of a military coalition before visiting it. This visit brought me hope and a new vision for peace.On the 7th of January, when I was sitting in front of over 20 high ranking military officers from around the world in a location in Tampa we talked about the disaster relief, humanitarian missions and challenges at times of crisis. It was a friendly and pleasant discussion while they were nibbling cheese cookies and having soft drinks. Although usually they have alcoholic drinks, in honor of my visit, Robert decided not to serve any alcohol. I hope nobody was disappointed.
I wish all of these bright and brave officers inner clarity and strength. I hope they will come to the realization that war is not the answer. Peace is the answer and they can play an important role in bringing peace to our planet earth and maintaining it. Most of them already believe it anyway.
“It was such an experience to chat with you over lunch and an honor to host you in my humble office during your visit”. “Your knowledge about my country was amazing. We all appreciate your help to the sick and the less privileged. I look forward to our next meeting. Thank you and be blessed as you continue with your world wide noble mission”.
– Lt. Col. Samuel Thuita Senior National representative of Kenya