Airmen from the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron worked with the Colombian armed forces as part of a mobile training team from Feb. 11 through March 11 at two air bases in Colombia.
The team consisted of 15 air advisors from the 571st MSAS at Travis Air Force Base and six Total Force instructors from three other U.S. Air Force units. The training covered a variety of areas of cooperation between the U.S. and Colombia. It aimed at supporting Colombia in their pursuit to counter transnational and transregional threat networks and to enhance the capability of the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana, their air force or, FAC, to maintain regional security through increased proficiency in mobility support operations.
The training was conducted at Comando Aereo de Transporte Militar in Bogota, Colombia, and Comando Aereo Combate-1 in Palanquero, Colombia. The training topics focused on C-130 Hercules aircraft maintenance, aerial firefighting procedures, search and rescue, intelligence and medical intelligence.
The C-130s, located at Comando Aereo de Transporte Militar, are the workhorse of the FAC fleet, capable of conducting a diverse mission set. Throughout the engagement, 571st MSAS maintenance air advisors worked with the FAC to develop their maintenance philosophy, systems knowledge, and best practices and procedures. A heavy focus was placed on the C-130 engine, hydraulic, fuel, environmental and electrical system familiarization and troubleshooting.
Instructors conducted training through classroom briefings and hands-on training on the aircraft, to gain a thorough understanding of Colombian air force maintenance practices.
The students were very engaged in the training we provided,” said Tech. Sgt. Jacob Haines, 571st MSAS advisor. “I am confident that our students’ capacity to properly maintain their C-130 fleet has increased.”
Each of the courses taught throughout the three weeks culminated in a graduation ceremony. Columbian air force Technical 3rd Class Angel Arturo Hernandez Ramon, a maintenance technician, was appreciative of the training he and his fellow students received.
“I want to thank the United States of America, especially its Air Force, for sharing their knowledge in order to extend the ties of brotherhood and teamwork between the two nations,” Hernandez Ramon said. “Today, we culminate with great satisfaction, the electrical and wiring maintenance course, with new lessons and experiences that will facilitate us to execute the best quality standards, applying this knowledge to the aircraft that protect and safeguard the Colombian territory.”
Additionally, the 571st MSAS team provided ground training to the Colombian air force on Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems, or MAFFS, a system loaded into the rear of a C-130 that drops fire retardant to aid in stopping the spread of wildfires.
Employing an aerial firefighting capability will help the FAC in combating wildfires, both internally and internationally. The specialized training, provided by the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command personnel, was a stepping stone to future work with the FAC on further enhancing this capability.
“While a very effective firefighting tool, this specific mission set requires consistent practice,” said Lt. Col. Richard Pantusa, 731st Airlift Squadron MAFFS instructor pilot from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. “It is inherently a dangerous mission — flying low over mountainous terrain that is on fire. The FAC has a new MAFFS program that includes highly motivated and knowledgeable C-130 operators who are attempting to grow their MAFFS program.”
While training on the diverse capabilities of the C-130 was the main focus of the mission, the 571st MSAS air advisors also took the opportunity to support additional U.S. Southern Command lines of effort by continuing to develop interoperability between the U.S. and Colombia.
“This was a robust and complex MTT (Mobile Training Team), exemplifying the training the MSAS is capable of conducting in the Latin American region,” said Capt. Shawn Pennie, 571st MSAS mission commander. “I feel honored to have worked side by side with the Colombian armed forces and to have been able to lead this team of U.S. Air Force professionals. We look forward to follow-on engagements that reflect our countries’ mutual security objectives.”
The building partnership capacity missions the MSAS conducts, not only enhance the capabilities of the partner-nation forces but also furthers the objectives of the U.S. in building strong international relationships. This mutual cooperation and support will assist both the U.S. and partner nations in crisis response operations by enabling the nations to coordinate and work together.
This article was written by Lt. Col Lindsay A. Bauer of the 571st MSAS and can be viewed in its original form here.