RIONEGRO, Colombia –
A C-17 Globemaster III from the 14th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., and a C-130 Hercules from the 133rd Airlift Squadron with the Minnesota Air National Guard are among the eight U.S. Air Force active, guard and reserve components participating in “Angel de los Andes,” a Colombian-led international search and rescue training exercise Sept. 3-14.
The Air Combat Command number 5 unit at Arturo Lema Posada Air Base in Rionegro is the staging ground for the exercise. This is the second time the Colombian Air Force has conducted Angel de los Andes. The first was in 2015.
“I’m confident that Angel de los Andes, with its mission to save lives, will extend and further our relationship, cooperation and exchange of best practices which will benefit the U.S. and Colombian Air Forces,” said Colombian Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Carlos Eduardo Bueno Vargas. “The significant importance of the U.S. being here is that we have the opportunity to strengthen our relationship so we can be prepared to confront future threats together.”
Over 90 U.S. Airmen participated in the exercise. Along with the planes from the 14th AS and the 133rd AS, the remaining U.S. units participating are the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California, as well as the 48th Rescue Squadron, 306th Rescue Squadron, 612th Air Operations Center, 943rd Aerospace Medicine Squadron and 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern), all stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.
“The U.S. has been our ‘big brother’ for many years and we have a special relationship based on gratitude and respect and that is why they are our guest of honor to this important exercise,” Bueno Vargas said. “While all of the participating countries are important Colombian allies, the U.S. has a special relationship with Colombia since they have helped us overcome our most difficult moments, not only for the Colombian Air Force, but also for Colombia as a whole against narcoterrorism and drug trafficking threats.”
The first week of the exercise is focused on responding to natural disaster scenarios that include earthquake response, forest fire and open water rescue, as well as, responding to an aircraft crash. The second week will focus on close air support and combat search and rescue techniques.
“In a real world humanitarian assistance disaster response relief event in the U.S. Southern Command AoR, we would expect to work with these same partner nations that are participating in this exercise,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Juan Pazarro, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Colombian desk officer.
There are more than 400 participants from 12 nations’ air forces, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Panama, Peru and Uruguay.
“Managing 11 different nations can be challenging but I think that the Colombians have done a great job at integrating all of these different countries, all of the capabilities that they bring to this exercise,” Pizarro said.