BOGOTA, COLOMBIA -- An Airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard deployed here Aug. 11 to Sept. 14 to help build stronger ties with the Columbian Air Force while serving as an instructor for the U.S. Air Force's active-duty 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron.
The 571st's Mobile Training Team was conducting the fourth in a series of training events focused on Colombia's C-130 aircraft maintenance program, according to Tech. Sgt. Jason Sanderson, a crew chief in the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Global Mobility Squadron.
Held at the central airlift maintenance facility in Bogota, the course's intent was to assist in broader relationship-building efforts between the U.S. and Colombian air forces, while directly assisting the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana in their efforts to increase the sortie generation rate for critical airlift missions, Sanderson said.
The Mobility Support Advisory Squadron mission, based out of Travis Air Force Base, Calif., supports the 12th Air Force's continued engagements in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility in Latin America and the Caribbean. This particular engagement was unique because Sanderson was one of the first Air National Guard members brought in to augment the Mobility Support Advisory Squadron mission and teach a C-130 maintenance instructional seminar.
According to Maj. Shawn Keller, State Partnership Program director for the Kentucky National Guard, the inclusion of Air Guard members in active-duty security cooperation missions is a trend that is likely to continue.
"The Air Force has discovered that the Guard has a long and successful history of building and sustaining international partnerships," Keller said. "As budgets and manpower continue to shrink, the Mobility Support Advisory Squadron and other U.S. military units operating in USSOUTHCOM are taking advantage of the strong foundational relationships that the State Partnership Program has been building in the region since the mid-1990s. They have also realized that the Guard is an excellent source of highly skilled and seasoned Airmen who can fill critical positions on their Mobile Training Teams."
The initial plan for Air Guard involvement was developed during a joint maintenance assessment conducted by a team from the South Carolina and Kentucky National Guard State Partnership Programs in April 2013. South Carolina, whose Air National Guard is equipped with the F-16 weapon system, was recently partnered with Colombia under the National Guard Bureau's partnership program.
Kentucky, which has C-130s, also participates in the State Partnership Program and has been paired with Colombia's neighbor, Ecuador, since 1996.
The airlift mission plays a vital role in Colombia's counter-narcotics and border security efforts, Keller said, and mission-capable aircraft are a key to success. As a result of Colombia's request for assistance in the form of a C-130-specific maintenance seminar, the South Carolina Air National Guard partnered with Kentucky and other states to provide C-130 subject matter experts.
"South Carolina has done a tremendous job of quickly establishing an effective partnership in a country that is definitely one of the busiest in SOUTHCOM," Keller said. "They realized the importance of airlift support to Colombia immediately, and wasted no time in reaching out to other Air National Guard units for support. South Carolina has a great State Partnership Program team, and we are happy to be supporting their mission."
The training course, which lasted approximately three weeks, was "translated to the 14 partner-nation students by the 571st's highly experienced senior air advisor, Tech. Sgt. Javier Borges," Sanderson said.
"Borges was instrumental in the success of the aircraft maintenance seminar as well as the instruction of C-130 air drop and loadmaster seminars conducted during the engagement," he added.
Sanderson was able to provide assistance in the fields of auxiliary power unit and bleed air systems; engine systems; and fuel systems components and operations. He also provided an introduction to C-130 avionics and communication/navigation systems, and lectured on the importance of the Crew Chief Concept of flight line operations, production inspections, technical order systems, the role of quality assurance, and proper maintenance documentation.
"The students are highly competent, very enthusiastic about learning the C-130 and excited about the U.S. involvement in helping them achieve their goals," said Master Sergeant Aaron Carrillo, an air traffic controller with the 571st who observed several maintenance seminars and served as team sergeant instructor for the mission.
In addition to providing instructional seminars, the team was able to organize a partnership-building day at the end of the second week. The Fuerza Aérea Colombiana, or FAC, provided their own officer club for the event, while the 571st provided food and entertainment, Sanderson said.
Part of that entertainment involved a friendly soccer match between the 571st team and the partner nation. Much to the dismay of the 571st's first-time mission commander, Maj. Justin Allen, the Colombians won the match by a margin of five goals.
"It was a wonderful experience for the (571st) team, as well as for the students who participated." Allen said. "We may have lost the match but we won on the larger scale of building partnerships."
"Overall, the fourth Mobility Support Advisory Squadron engagement to Colombia was a great success," he said. "Sergeants Sanderson and Borges were able to instruct the FAC maintainers on C-130-specific aircraft systems as well as give them a glimpse into the overall maintenance concept of the U.S. Air Force and its continued success on the world stage.
"Both the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron, through their increased focus on building partnership capacity, and the Air National Guard, through the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program, stand ready for involvement in future engagements. When a crisis or contingency operation occurs, the United States and their partner nations will be better prepared to respond together."