Colombian Air Force Begins Training to Participate in UN Peace Keeping Missions
By Marian Romero/Diálogo August 30, 2016The Colombian Air Force offers its broad experience in combat operations as a valuable asset for its potential involvement in peacekeeping operations. Last June, Colombian Air Force (for its Spanish acronym, FAC) officers began their training with the seminar “Using Air Power in Peacekeeping and Crisis-Management Missions” with the aim of furthering Colombia’s bid to join the United Nation’s Peacekeeping Forces. Experts from the Canadian, U.S., Uruguayan and Argentine Air Forces attended this event to share their logistical perspectives and experience as part of United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions. Seventy people, including doctrine management officers and commanders of specific units of the FAC, took part in this annual academic event designed to improve the technical capacities of the different units and commands. The theme of the tactical doctrine seminars changes each year, according to the FAC’s direction and needs. General Fernando Losada, chief of the FAC’s Air Education Command, stated that “at this time, the FAC is moving toward a focus on peacekeeping in the international arena. We have developed a broad spectrum of abilities and skills that could be very useful for peacekeeping missions. This is the first time that the FAC has concentrated on peacekeeping scenarios in its doctrine and has channeled its efforts towards possible international management”. Colombia takes steps toward the international arena The initiative began with an accord signed in New York on January 26th, 2015, by the UN and the Colombian Government regarding contributions to the UN agreements on reserve forces for peacekeeping operations (PKO). In order for the accord to come into force, Colombian authorities added Art. 122 on cooperation agreements for international missions and peacekeeping operations to 2015’s Bill 164 within Colombia’s National Development Plan for 2014-2018. Since then, many members of the FAC have participated in courses and training in Canada and at the UN with the aim of becoming Staff Officers of the UN Peacekeeping Forces. “The first steps to joining this select group of Peacekeeping Forces are to begin an effective training that enhances our current capabilities and gives us a chance to gain relevant knowledge. We also need political backing via the enactment of Bill 164,” Gen. Losada explained. “We are heading in the right direction. Rather than rushing forward, we want to be ready to fully achieve our goal. This seminar ratifies the best practices we want to institute at the FAC to facilitate its integration with the UN Peacekeeping Forces. The FAC will continue to carry out its constitutional mission to maintain the integrity of its national territory, defend the nation, and provide support for internal crises. At the same time, it will share with the world the experience it has gained over several decades of conflict in Colombia." Colombia’s vision The tactical doctrine seminars draw on the relevant experience of other countries, such as this year’s guests from the United States, Canada, Uruguay, and Argentina. The seminar also featured a presentation by an expert from Colombia’s Ministry of Defense about the connection between this strategy and the National Development Plan, the budget, as well as competency planning. Additionally, the FAC’s experts took a forward-looking approach. Gen. Losada spoke of the potential security challenges they may face in the future. Participating countries’ experience Uruguay has more experience in peacekeeping operations than any other Latin American country, which makes its perspective on systematization, associated risks, and management relevant to Colombia. By mid 2015, Uruguay had more than 1,500 Troops deployed in peace keeping missions in Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Kashmir, the Ivory Coast, and the Multinational Force of Observers in the Sinai Peninsula. According to a 2015 statement from Dr. Gabriela González, general director general of Defense Policy for the Uruguayan Ministry of Defense, “Uruguay ranks 21 among 122 world countries contributing Troops and police forces to UN peacekeeping operations." For its part, Argentina has become an academic leader in Latin America for combined peacekeeping operations. The Joint Forces Staff College of the Argentine Armed Forces led the course on staff officers and joint planning. The course focused on operational strategy and joint military planning and was designed for chief officers of the Air Forces of Argentina and other countries. Canada also has a long history of involvement in peacekeeping operations, crisis management, and humanitarian support. According to Commander Lori McAllister, from Canada’s Joint Operations Command, Canada’s greatest strength has been perfecting logistics for joint and combined operations, making its operations in other countries more efficient. The U.S. Air Force’s contribution to the seminar centered on the origin and operation of the Joint Air Operations Command and Control Center. According to U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Atilio Usseglio’s presentation, the center was created in response to the perceived need to coordinate all commands in a unified manner, following a single chain of command when forces are deployed. This ensures that operations are carried out in an orderly way and eliminates the possibility of overlapping objectives between units. “This working approach, used by the United States since the '80s, is very valuable for coordinating combined operations and preventing duplicated efforts. At the FAC, we apply all of these lessons learned through experiences such as the seminar,” Gen. Losada said. Potential FAC contributions to UN peacekeeping missions The FAC has developed other capabilities not directly related to combat, including firefighting experience and Integral Action operations, which involve the coordinated efforts of multiple government and private agencies working to achieve a humanitarian goal. These actions focus on reconstruction, law enforcement, and governance, key elements for maintaining peace in any given territory. “The FAC is a successful organization, battle-tested for a conflict like the one we had in Colombia. We have the experience needed to participate in combined operations, provided we receive training on international standards,” concluded Gen. Losada.