Members of the West Virginia Air National Guard participated in a week-long humanitarian assistance and disaster response exercise in Lima, Peru, May 7-12.
The exercise, appropriately named Cooperation IX, was led by the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA). SICOFAA is an entity intended to unite air forces of the Western Hemisphere and enhance interoperability of partner nations in support of large-scale emergency situations.
Cooperation IX took place in Callao Air Base in Lima, with 13 partner nations, 20 aircraft, and approximately 1,000 aviators participating. Each exercised planning and controlling of air operations to include aeromedical evacuations, logistics transport, and search and air rescue to safeguard human lives and recover infrastructure to affected populations.
A C-17 Globemaster from the 167th Airlift Wing transported about 50 personnel including aircrew, aircraft support personnel, and translators. Members of the 167th Medical Group and 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron demonstrated ground and air patient transport capabilities during the exercise.
“These exercises give us the time to work with our partner nations, learn how they plan and develop their operations, so that we can integrate with them and assist them in the future,” said Colonel James Freid-Studlo, West Virginia Air National Guard director of Operations. “Our goals here are twofold: to support our Peruvian partners as they run this exercise and develop future exercises, and also to develop interoperability; not just with Peru, but with all of the SICOFAA members.”
The West Virginia Air National Guard has been building relations with Peru since 1996 through the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program (SPP). Humanitarian assistance and disaster response is only one of several objectives of the partnership between the two military forces. Lieutenant Colonel Luis Calvo, foreign area officer assigned to the Secretary of the Air Force International Affairs Directorate at the Pentagon, explains: “This exercise affords us the opportunity to leverage the WVNG [West Virginia National Guard] and Peru partnership and help us build on those critical relationships. Additionally, with the C-17 coming downrange, we were able to deliver an ambulance, firefighting equipment, and a pallet of water to the Peruvian government and we were able to bring Project Arcwater to demonstrate its unique capabilities.”
The aforementioned Project Arcwater is an innovative system that saves energy and provides drinking water by using solar fabric and an atmospheric generator to make water or filter water from contaminated sources in austere locations or in times of natural disaster. By carrying out this capability in real time, airmen participate in a readiness mission, demonstrating their ability to react to a potentially unanticipated scenario as it emerges.
Col. Freid-Studlo encourages airmen to jump on opportunities to participate in State Partnership Program events and exercises like Cooperation IX.
“State Partnership is an important, strategic program, for not only the West Virginia Air National Guard but for the country as a whole,” said Col. Freid-Studlo. “When conflicts arise, the Guard often has the strongest relationships with other nations. We need to build continuity from the top to the bottom, and continually develop relationships.”