Spotlight: A Conversation With Our Leaders

A New Era for the Guatemalan Air Force

The new capacities of the Guatemalan Air Force will directly benefit the population in humanitarian aid, search and rescue, and forest fires operations, among others.
Geraldine Cook/Diálogo | 30 April 2018

For Brigadier General Timo Hernández Duarte, general commander of the Guatemalan Air Force, training and the acquisition of new aircraft and equipment will optimize the Air Force's mission to help the Guatemalan people and contribute to the fight against narcotrafficking. (Photo: Geraldine Cook, Diálogo)

The Guatemalan Air Force is going through a growth and evolution process. Brigadier General Timo Hernández Duarte, general commander of the Guatemalan Air Force, is committed to institutional transformation.

New capacities, training, equipment, infrastructure, and a doctrine focused on helping the Guatemalan people are the foundation for the military organization's new path. As the Guatemalan Air Force faces the modern world, humanitarian aid missions during natural disasters, national and international operations in the fight against narcotrafficking and transnational crime, as well as regional cooperation become crucial.

Brig. Gen. Hernández spoke with Diálogo at the Western Hemisphere Exchange Symposium, within the framework of the 75th anniversary celebration of the Inter-American Air Forces Academy (IAAFA) in San Antonio, Texas, March 14th-16th. The officer addressed the Guatemalan Air Force’s new path, among other topics.

Diálogo: What is the significance of the Guatemalan Air Force’s participation in this international symposium?

Brigadier General Timo Hernández, general commander of the Guatemalan Air Force: This symposium is incredibly important for us because we are in the process of learning and transforming our logistical system, our maintenance and operational system, and we have the opportunity at this event to share new experiences and learn from other air forces in the region.

Diálogo: The symposium is part of IAAFA's 75th anniversary celebration. What do you think is IAAFA's contribution to air forces in the region?

Brig. Gen. Hernández: IAAFA had a very arduous trajectory, with many challenges over the past 75 years, but it bore fruit its founders and members had hoped for throughout its history. Its support has been essential, especially for Central American countries since we received training and collaboration on different issues. I hope that IAAFA continues to have that helping spirit, fostering fellowship and trust among all air forces of the Americas so that we might grow together and become stronger.

Diálogo: As an IAAFA graduate, can you tell us about your experience here?

Brig. Gen. Hernández: I took the leadership course in 1997, and it was a very enriching experience that helped me a lot in my military career and also personally. Although I'm a graduate and I am thankful for IAAFA's education, today in my capacity as commander, I want to express my utmost gratitude to the academy not only for what I received personally but also for what I now receive, which benefits my institution. Today, I represent the voice of all airmen and officers from the Guatemalan Air Force who attended this academy, and, from that perspective, I appreciate IAAFA much more. I wish every member of my air force could have this academic and camaraderie-building experience.

Diálogo: Humanitarian aid and disaster relief is one of the main points of coordination for the air forces. What are the efforts of the Guatemalan Air Force in this area?

Brig. Gen. Hernández: This is one of the fundamental tasks that the Guatemalan Air Force focuses on. This mission comes directly from our president, Jimmy Morales. The capacities we have specifically aim to serve the population in humanitarian aid missions, search and rescue, and missions to protect our natural resources—unfortunately under the threat of forest fires in the jungles to the north of our country. We want to recover some of our capacities to strengthen our mission to the benefit of all Guatemalan people, both directly, when we do humanitarian aid and rescue, and indirectly, when we take action to protect our natural forests.

Diálogo: Guatemala belongs to the Northern Triangle countries, along with El Salvador and Honduras. How do the air forces of the Northern Triangle join together to fight narcotrafficking and other transnational criminal threats?

Brig. Gen. Hernández: Our relationship with El Salvador and Honduras is excellent, but we were already working together before within the framework of the Central American Armed Forces Conference, which gave us the opportunity to improve our communication and interact in exercises and activities of Central American countries. We have the Alliance for Prosperity Plan in the Northern Triangle of Central America, which is one more reason for communication and interaction to grow stronger among us.

Diálogo: The collaboration between air forces of the region is key to face shared threats, especially to combat transnational criminal organizations. How does the Guatemalan Air Force collaborate with regional air forces to counteract this scourge?

Brig. Gen. Hernández: Part of what concerns us in general is transnational crime threats, and, in Guatemala, we’ve developed many operations to counter this scourge—both internally and with countries in the region. We have excellent communication with our neighbors Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico, with whom we joined forces, and have a very tight relationship to monitor and unite against this scourge. We also cooperate with other countries in the area, such as Colombia, with whom we maintain a close relationship of support so we can become stronger in this regional fight.

International cooperation is key to confronting these threats together. For example, working with countries like the United States, which has technology, knowledge, and experience, is essential. All the help and assistance they provide allow us to get stronger and acquire capacities to face transnational threats, since we can't face them alone.

Diálogo: How does the Guatemalan Air Force support the role of women within its ranks?

Brig. Gen. Hernández: The role of women in the armed forces has evolved. Women have been accepted into military academies since 1995. Their inclusion is welcomed, and really helped advance the forces in general. We see it as a positive step in the Air Force, through which women develop professionally to support the institution’s many developments and the country in general.

Diálogo: What are the plans for the Guatemalan Air Force?

Brig. Gen. Hernández: We are in a redesign process. Unfortunately in the past few decades, many of our capacities have been lost, and resources have been scarce. We are beginning a new era for the institution. Our president, Jimmy Morales, wants to give major support to the Air Force because he knows what can be achieved with better capacities, since we have the capital to acquire a few small aircraft. We're not talking about acquiring war capacities but capacities for the benefit of the people, for humanitarian aid, search and rescue, and to fight forest fires.

Diálogo: What message do you have for the air forces of the region?

Brig. Gen. Hernández: We have to be united, work hand in hand, because threats are not specific to one country. We all face them. During this symposium, we stressed that we are stronger when we work together.

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