General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, and Major General Barry R. Cornish, commander of U.S. Air Forces Southern/12th Air Force, virtually joined air chiefs from 19 nations across the Western Hemisphere for the 60th Conference of American Air Chiefs (CONJEFAMER, in Spanish), September 30, 2020.
The System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA, in Spanish) virtually hosted this CONJEFAMER, which is usually held in June by a participating nation but was postponed due to COVID-19. The conference provides air chiefs an opportunity to meet and collectively collaborate on SICOFAA’s agenda, combined training exercises, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the region.
“Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, particularly during COVID-19, have never been more vital across the globe. The Conference of American Air Chiefs is an event that builds trust and support between the U.S. and our Latin American partners. The relationships built among all the air chiefs is invaluable, and gives us the opportunity for our nations to collaborate when responding to humanitarian crises and natural disasters in the Western Hemisphere,” said Gen. Brown.
There have been more than 200 days of COVID-19 air operation responses in the Western Hemisphere since the pandemic reached the Americas, thrusting the air forces into air transportation logistics of humanitarian aid, food delivery, support to health and state agencies, medical evaluations, and support to each nation’s security. The air chiefs shared their experiences, lessons learned and best practices with COVID-19 during the virtual conference.
General Ramsés Rueda Rueda, commander of the Colombian Air Force, said that SICOFAA member nations are preparing for live exercise Cooperation VII (Cooperación VII), which will be held in Rionegro, Colombia, in August 2021. The exercise Angel of the Andes will also be conducted as part of Cooperation VII. “[The exercise allows us] to train under a combined multinational scheme, to plan for the interoperable use of air power, response capabilities, and humanitarian care to manage large-scale natural disasters, supported by resources provided by SICOFAA to develop this exercise.”
The air chiefs concluded the conference with a discussion on building international partnerships in the space domain and incorporating space capabilities in future combined humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations for the benefit the region. Seven Latin American nations have active space programs and an additional three have space academics.
“I was honored to represent the U.S. Space Force at the Conference of American Air Chiefs, the first since our establishment last December ,” said U.S. Space Force Lieutenant General William Liquori, deputy chief of Space Operations, Strategy, Plans, Programs, Requirements, and Analysis. “Robust partnerships with like-minded space-faring nations like those in attendance today are essential to the long-term security and sustainability of the space domain.”
“Although this year’s conference is virtual, it is only possible thanks to the bonds formed from previous successful conferences,” Gen. Brown said.