Colombia Flies in Mobility Guardian 2017 for the First Time

Colombia Flies in Mobility Guardian 2017 for the First Time

By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo
September 05, 2017

Service members from the Colombian Air Force (FAC, per its Spanish acronym), participated in the first international Mobility Guardian exercise hosted by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in Washington, from July 31st to August 12th. The mission was to practice humanitarian response operations in war and natural disaster environments. Mobility Guardian, created by USAF’s Air Mobility Command (AMC), strives to improve joint and allied forces’ response to operating more effectively in war and natural disaster environments. These operations replace the AMC RODEO exercise. “This multinational exercise is the largest in the history of the United States, in terms of the deployment of transport units and personnel,” Colombian Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Robert Quiroga Cruz, the commander of the Colombian delegation, told Diálogo at Mobility Guardian. “We’ve had the opportunity to share essential tactics, techniques, and procedures with other air forces.” The multinational exercise brought together more than 3,000 members of USAF’s AMC, and more than 700 service members from 25 of the world’s elite air forces, including Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom as well as Colombia and Brazil, as the sole representatives of Latin America in the multinational exercise. Several other nations attended as observers. Only 12 nations were staged at the training with dozens of aircraft, among them Argentina, Germany, Kazakhstan, and Spain. For their part, Belgium, Colombia, France, and the United States also brought paratroopers. This advanced training included a wide variety of maneuvers: airfield seizures, joint forcible entry, assault zone landings, night vision operations, and paratrooper missions. The exercise also tested basic functions such as air cargo drops, in-flight refueling, air transport, and aeromedical evacuations. All of these maneuvers were planned, trained, and operated under international standards set by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as well as under the exercise standards set by USAF for these missions. The results During the training, crews flew for approximately 1,200 hours and conducted nearly 650 incursions. In the air refueling operations, the aircraft discharged approximately 600,000 kilograms of fuel, as reported by USAF in a press release. Airport personnel processed more than 3,600 passengers and 4,911 tons of equipment. From the air, crews dropped nearly 356 paratroopers, 33 heavy platforms, and approximately 300 Container Delivery Systems (CDS). The Colombian delegation comprised 42 FAC members, including pilots, crew, paratroopers, and logistics personnel. “A FAC Airbus C-295 plane ended the exercise with a total of nine missions completed, seven daytime and two nighttime, in NVG [Night Vision Goggles] conditions,” Lt. Col. Quiroga reported. “Of those missions, four were low-altitude cargo drops using parachutes and three were transport missions in which 63 people were transported.” Two FAC crews took part in the cargo drop. “That exercise was done in coordination with the cargo chiefs. They prepared the CDS for low-altitude drops,” FAC Second Lieutenant Diego Franco, the 1st Cargo Chief of the C-295, told Diálogo. “Nearly every CDS weighed 600 kilograms. Low-cost parachutes were used for training purposes.” The AMC intelligence unit gave the coordinates and the sites for dropping the cargo, amid threats from the ground. “The cargo drops were done in a hostile environment that included missiles,” 2nd Lt. Franco recounted. “The pilots had the skill to evade such harassment and complete the mission to deliver cargo to the troops on the ground.” FAC leads the paratrooper mission Colombia also completed a mock aeromedical evacuation and for the first time, it led a paratrooper operation at an altitude of 10,000 feet, with eight service members from France, two from Pakistan, and nine from FAC, while the Colombian C-295 maintained a speed of 200 kilometers per hour. During their descent, the paratroopers joined in a tactical formation over the jumping area. According to plan, the commandos landed precisely at the touchdown site. USAF provided the route and the mission for the operation. “It really was an honor to represent FAC in the paratrooper mission,” FAC Captain Andrés Echeverría, the commander of the Special Air Commandos Squadron, told Diálogo. “Flying through those international skies and sharing in this practice with our wing buddies was a huge professional experience that will help us strengthen our techniques and procedures and improve the safety of our missions.” To meet this challenge, FAC developed an intensive, three-month training at Eastern Air Group Air Base in Vichada. These training efforts are geared towards addressing missions under conditions such as threats to aircraft, air threats, cargo drops, flying under conditions of infiltration, and different kinds of paratrooper jumping. “The high-altitude paratrooper mission is highly meaningful for the Colombian contingent,” Lt. Col. Quiroga noted. “It was a multinational effort that was conducted using standardized procedures in the English language, in a mock combat environment with exact precision in the area where the paratroopers were supposed to do their jump under strict safety protocols.” “Their performance was excellent, especially considering the fact that they planned, directed, and executed a multinational jump,” USAF Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Mangan, the deputy director of Strategic Plans and Programs for the 12th Air Force/Air Forces Southern, concluded. “Colombia is a security exporter and a top-level strategic ally of the United States.”
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