Airmen ensure interoperability with partner nation

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Lesley Waters
  • 615th Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs
Two Airmen from the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, out of Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, are currently deployed here in support of a month-long Building Partner Capacity mission.

Tech. Sgt. Ruben Sigala and Staff Sgt. Heric Llerena, both instructors at the IAAFA, joined forces with Airmen from the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron, out of Travis AFB, Calif., to conduct a two-week aircraft electrical and communication and navigation class here.

The IAAFA provides Spanish-language technical and management training to military forces and governmental agencies of Latin America and the Caribbean. The school at Lackland AFB provides training in 70 different courses for both officer and enlisted personnel. The 571st MSAS mission supports Air Forces Southern's continued engagements in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility of Latin America and the Caribbean.

"(The 571st MSAS) is 'IAAFA on wheels,' while at IAAFA our partner nations come to us in the United States," Llerena said. "We both share the same mission, which is to help our partner nations perform their missions more efficiently and be better at what they do."

Llerena and Sigala are working closely with Senior Master Sgt. Jason Hood, a 571st MSAS helicopter crew chief and air advisor, in exchanging ideas with the Honduran Air Force. During the initial proof of concept several months ago, Honduran Air Force leaders asked the 571st MSAS to do an aircraft electrical class. Unfortunately, the 571st MSAS did not have an aircraft electrical and environmental system specialist assigned to the squadron, so the squadron requested IAAFA's assistance. IAAFA provided Llerena with his aircraft electrical expertise and Sigala for his communication and navigation expertise.

The inter-command cooperation between IAAFA and MSAS is a perfect fit as both missions mirror each other by maintaining training and education excellence while building enduring relationships through academic and cultural engagement, officials said.

"IAAFA and MSAS go hand in hand," said Lt. Col. Joseph Sanchez, the 571st MSAS commander. "It is important for us to learn how IAAFA does business, but at the same time it is important for IAAFA to come to our partner nation countries and see how they do business. In the future, we would like to see a cross flow of personnel between our two units to capitalize on each other's strengths and expertise."

Even though Sigala and Llerena are here for three weeks, the changes they have already seen within the Honduran Air Force have been significant. Llerena said they were able to plant the seed with the Honduran airmen on the importance of safety in everything they do, from keeping things clean around the shop to performing regular foreign object debris walks on the flightline.

"We were able to change their mindset of a safer (Honduran Air Force) by showing them how to keep their areas clean and free of hazards," Llerena said. "The FOD walk we conducted during the week helped them to understand the domino effect FOD has on personnel and assets."

To show the importance of conducting a FOD walk, Hood, Sigala and Llerena coordinated a base-wide FOD walk. Each of the classes -- more than 100 airmen from the 571st MSAS and Honduran Air Force -- participated and collected more than 50 pounds of FOD from the flightline.

Changes, however small or large, are making the Honduran Air Force better and solidifying the relationship between both air forces and countries, the sergeants said.

"This has been a great learning experience for both IAAFA and 571st MSAS," said Sigala. "Working together, we can help build relationships and provide better security throughout Latin America."

"In these constricted budgets, (the Building Partner Capacity mission) is extremely important," Sanchez said. "We have the opportunity to work with our partner nations on creating efficiencies in how we do business. This creates interoperability between our forces and lasting bonds between our airmen."