CMSAF strengthens ties with Colombian partners

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky
  • 12th Air Force Public Affairs
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy visited Colombian military sites here Feb. 1 to 4.

He said the purpose of the visit was to reaffirm U.S. Southern Command officials' commitment to a strong nation-to-nation partnership and to explore professional military education exchange opportunities between the U.S. and Colombian air forces.

"Our two nations already have a partnership in combating narcotics trafficking, responding to natural disasters and providing humanitarian assistance to those in need," Chief Roy said while addressing 160 students at the Fuerza Aerea de Colombia Escuela de Suboficiales. "I see Colombia as a leader in promoting regional stability, and the U.S. Air Force wants to continue to be a part of that effort."

Besides the ESUFA visit, Chief Roy also spoke with students and faculty members at the International NCO Academy and the Sergeants Major Academy.

He said strategic thinking at the NCO level was critical in promoting interoperability between partner nations.

Chief Roy also shared his vision of deliberately developing enlisted leaders through a combined approach of experience, education and training.

Gen. Julio Gonzalez Ruiz, the Colombian air force chief of staff, said NCOs need a larger leadership role for the U.S.-Colombian partnership to prosper.

"For the last 15 years, we've been trying to empower our NCOs to have more responsibility," General Ruiz said during a meeting with Chief Roy. "The culture in the air force here is changing, and I've seen improvements in the NCO corps. The relationship between our NCOs and officers is very similar to the United States. We need NCOs to guide the air force."

U.S. Air Force officials already send mobile training teams from the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, Texas, to countries in Latin America. Spanish-speaking U.S. Airmen have begun attending the International NCO Academy equivalent.

Chief Roy spoke with top-ranking enlisted leaders in the Colombian air force, army and navy to gauge the effectiveness of the training and explore additional education exchanges for senior NCOs as well as NCOs.

"The reason we are here today is to observe your program and perhaps send U.S. senior NCOs here to become your teammates in an educational environment," Chief Roy said while addressing students at the Colombian Sergeants Major Academy. "I am excited about the opportunity to send students here in the future. I find a great deal of value in the cross-cultural exchange and certainly in the curriculum.

"Our focus should be 15 to 20 years in the future, specifically targeting the deliberate development of our enlisted forces into capable leaders with a mutual understanding of each other's culture and operational doctrine," he said. "We're all Americans, and our countries have a responsibility to keep the Americas safe by partnering together."

The Sergeants Major Academy is a joint endeavor between the Colombian armed forces and SOUTHCOM. Initially, SOUTHCOM officials funded the course and worked with Colombian officials on a curriculum that would most benefit their senior NCOs.
Colombian officials embraced the concept and will begin independently conducting senior NCO training starting in 2012.

"We have a good program here, thanks to (SOUTHCOM)," said Lt. Col. Diego Luis Villegas Munoz, the director of Escuela de Misiones Internacionales y Accion Integral. "Not only are (U.S. liaisons) supervising the training, but they have made recommendations and are tracking our progress. This program has succeeded thanks to your support. We understand (U.S. Air Force) programs started many years ago, and we are striving to perform just as well."