LV PREPLAN Santo Domingo 2015 on Target for CONJEFAMER in Mexico
By Dialogo June 18, 2015
Representatives from the Air Forces of 17 countries of the Americas -- from Canada in the north to Chile and Argentina in the south -- met under LV PREPLAN Santo Domingo 2015 in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic from May 18-22 to discuss the agenda for the annual Conference of the American Air Chiefs (CONJEFAMER), which will take place in Mexico from June 22-27.
Officials from the Air Forces of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay and Dominican Republic participated in the meeting. Every year, PREPLAN precedes CONJEFAMER, the meeting of Air Force chiefs who are members of the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces, or SICOFAA.
SICOFAA is an apolitical voluntary international organization comprised of officials from the Air Forces of North and South America. It began in 1961 as a forum for senior leaders from Air Forces in the Western Hemisphere to discuss Military issues and aviation topics; it's based out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona in the United States, and holds a yearly meeting. The last time the Dominican Republic hosted the PREPLAN meeting was in 2011.
Major General Benjamín Romero Fuentes, an aviator and a graduate of the Mexican Air Force Academy, chaired the LV PREPLAN 2015 meeting. The opening ceremony was held in the Hall of the Hotel Santo Domingo Barceló Bávaro, Punta Cana, where Major General Elvis Marcelino Féliz Pérez, a pilot and Chief of Staff of the Dominican Republic Air Force and his staff, welcomed international and local delegates.
“It's a great privilege for us to extend the warmest greetings of welcome to the distinguished delegates of the sister SICOFAA Air Force members, gathered at the opening of this LV PREPLAN meeting,” Maj. Gen. Féliz Pérez said.
Developing an agenda
The purpose of the meeting was to finalize the agendas, activities and tasks to be developed in the framework of LIV CONJEFAMER 2015, taking into account the guidelines established in the American Air Forces Cooperation System Manual Procedures.
“The various recommendations that resulted from the SICOFAA Permanent Secretariat activities were analyzed and evaluated during the LV PREPLAN meeting in order to reach conclusions, which in turn defined the recommendations and agenda for CONJEFAMER,” Maj. Gen. Féliz Pérez said.
SICOFAA conferences are instrumental in laying the groundwork for developing frameworks which help Air Forces from the Americas provide humanitarian assistance to their civilian populations. For example, since January 1, the Colombian Air Force (CAF) has played an important role in fighting forest fires throughout the country. By February, fires had occurred in almost 80 percent of Colombia and destroyed thousands of hectares, mostly virgin vegetation and natural forests.
In January, the Air Force sent helicopters from the Fifth Air Combat Command to fight two major conflagrations in the department of Boyacá. The Army, National Police, Civil Defense, and other agencies also cooperated in battling the Boyacá fires, using the National Disaster Prevention and Response System.
Air Forces are continually training to help the civilian population. For example, in November, the Dominican Air Force participated in an exercise in which it mobilized a rapid response to the simulated spread of the deadly Ebola virus (which in reality has not appeared in the country). In the drill, an infected individual entered the country at the Las Americas International Airport near Santa Domingo. The Air Force responded quickly to protect the civilian population and provide appropriate medical care to the patient, all in coordination with two civilian agencies — the Specialized Airport and Civil Aviation Security Corps (CESAC) and the Civil Defense, Immigration and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (AMET).
“Today all countries are on the look-out for any disaster. Among the topics covered [during LV PREPLAN 2015] was that of search and rescue, and disaster relief assistance,” Maj. Gen. Féliz Pérez said.
Participants at the SICOFAA meeting discussed a wide array of topics, such as “Air operations airspace control, search and rescue, disaster assistance, prevention of air accidents, among others.”
Air forces are united and allied
Gatherings such as CONJEFAMER and SICOFAA not only provide good training opportunities, they also promote cooperation and unity among the Air Forces of the Americas.
“These cooperation agreements are positive because they allow the possibility of updating the knowledge required by the Air Forces in defending the sovereignty of their nations,” said Daniel Pou, an analyst and research associate at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) in the Dominican Republic.