Since arriving in Paraguay last November, 1st Lt. Carolina Caceres has been very busy. Caceres, a Florida National Guard Soldier assigned to the 356th Quartermaster Support Company headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is in Paraguay as part of a US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) program aimed at improving U.S. and partner nation forces’ abilities to respond to humanitarian crises.
“Working with local partners and seeing the direct impact of our humanitarian assistance efforts have helped me understand SOUTHCOM’s important mission,” said Caceres, a humanitarian assistance manager working at the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion. “I think it has also shown my active duty counterparts the role that National Guard officers can play in these types of missions.”
Caceres has been working closely with the U.S. Embassy staff and different Paraguayan government agencies to identify humanitarian assistance programs, and assist with their planning, funding and execution. As a humanitarian assistance program manager, she also meets and interacts with local elected officials, providing information about humanitarian assistance programs and how they can help communities.
“Our role has become even more important over the past few months, since the COVID-19 pandemic started,” Caceres said. “We have been helping local authorities with donations of PPE and cleaning supplies for their shelters and community health centers. Our local partners have been extremely appreciative of our continued support during this difficult time.”
Caceres’ work in Paraguay has not gone unnoticed back in Florida. Earlier this year, SOUTHCOM’s Joint Post Operations Action Group selected her as the action officer for the month of February. Earlier this month, Caceres was promoted to first lieutenant in Paraguay. During her promotion ceremony, the U.S. ambassador to Paraguay, Mr. Lee McClenny, praised her contributions to strengthening the U.S.-Paraguay partnership. Caceres’ battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Moore, of the Florida Guard’s 254th Transportation Battalion, also participated in the ceremony and recognized her efforts via video conference.
“First Lieutenant Caceres integrated quickly into our team and immediately became an asset,” said Maj. Bill Morse, the former SCO Chief at the U.S. Embassy in Asuncion. “Together with USAID she was the face of the embassy’s efforts to assist the Paraguayan government in its preparations for the COVID pandemic.”
SOUTHCOM’s COVID-19 Humanitarian Assistance Program projects have helped 26 countries in the Western Hemisphere. The program has completed over 200 donations to date, including field hospitals, personal protective equipment and medical supplies. These donations have been purchased from host country suppliers with no impact on the Department of Defense’s force health protection supply chain.