Texas Airmen Partner in Multinational Humanitarian Exercises

  • Published
  • By Capt. Rebecca A. Garcia
  • Cooperation 1 Public Affairs
The air forces of 12 countries of the Americas participated in an exercise aimed at using multinational air assets from member nations of Sistema de cooperacion de las Fuerzas Aerias de las Americas in support of Humanitarian Civic Assistance Missions, Oct. 4 to 14 in Chile.

The "Cooperation 1" exercise scenario was premised on the devastating effects of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Chile in February, triggering a tsunami, widespread blackouts and the loss of both property and hundreds of lives.

"The events in Haiti and Chile this year and other disasters in years past have shown us that none of our countries are immune to natural disaster. In the aftermath of one of these events, when lives are at stake and time is critical, the efficient use of air assets is crucial to providing timely humanitarian support and saving lives," said Col. Kris Skinner, secretary general, SICOFAA.

During 2011, SICOFAA will use lessons learned from Cooperation 1 and recent actual disaster responses to create and publish a manual outlining procedures for the use of member nation air forces. The manual will outline the necessary procedures to stand up a multinational command and control center capable of managing air assets for humanitarian relief, said Col.
Skinner. Although the U.S. and other nations are very capable of utilizing a command and control center for fighting a war, the concept has not yet been used in Latin America for humanitarian missions.

SICOFAA has proposed a 10-year plan for using the manual in future exercises. Col. Skinner will present the plan to SICOFAA air force commanders at the next annual conference in Brazil. The next SICOFAA exercise, Cooperacion 2 will be held as soon as possible. The host nation and location has not yet been determined.

"This type of exercise is important for all of our nations because the next natural disaster will give us another opportunity to come together to help one another, and that is what we want to be able to do," said Lt. Gen. Glenn F. Spears, commander of 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern).

Planning for this SICOFAA exercise began in June of 2007. This is the first SICOFAA exercise, utilizing real cargo and passengers versus paper scenarios. The Chilean Air Force has been planning this exercise since 2008, said Aviation General (two-star general) Luis Ili Delgado, director of Exercise Cooperacion 1.

"The exercise has been an absolute success," said General Ili. "We have been able to learn a great amount about each other's air forces, cultures, capabilities and procedures. We are learning about the coordinated movement of cargo and passengers for disaster response through an exercise, instead of when lives are on the line."

The United States Air Force contributed two C-130 Hercules from the 136th Airlift Wing (Texas Air National Guard) and 27 personnel from various units to both fly cargo and participate in the command and control aspects of coordinating aerial missions.

Six of the 12 participating countries brought cargo aircraft and flew over
232 missions, transported 2,607 kilograms of cargo and 306 passengers to 14 locations. The U.S. flew near daily missions with approximately 100 flight hours and transported approximately 24,000 pounds of cargo between the cities of Santiago, Puerto Montt and Balmaceda - one of Chile's southernmost cities.

During the exercise, the Chilean Air Force also hosted a media day, open house and VIP day with military and civilian leadership from the SICOFAA member nations.