BARRANQUILLA, Colombia (AFNS) --
Approximately 100 Airmen and eight F-16 Fighting Falcons from the South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing participated in exercise Relampago VII, a combined Colombian and U.S. exercise which took place in Barranquilla, Colombia Aug. 26-Sept. 11.
The exercise focused on training techniques, tactics and procedures, and strengthening interoperability between the U.S. and Colombian air forces as allies under NATO standards.
South Carolina is Colombia’s state partner in the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program and has been training with the Colombian military for 10 years.
Lt. Col. David Way, a 169th FW pilot who participated in previous Relampago exercises, said this year’s iteration offered additional training over the ocean. The co-location of the Colombian and U.S. pilots was key to the success of the year’s exercise.
For future Relampago exercises, Way hopes the organizers will, “keep the ability to train together in the same location so we can brief and debrief together. This is integral to relationship building between the two nations’ pilots.”
Relampago allowed U.S. pilots to learn tactics from each other and built a foundational relationship with their Colombian partners.
“Building the Relampago exercise since 2012, for sure, lets us strengthen our partnership and lets us know that we are still allies and contributing to the stability in this region,” said Colombian Air Force Maj. Rommel Rodriguez, 111th Fighter Squadron commander. “The language can sometimes be a barrier, but the exercise is not just for the pilots, it is also for maintenance and support.”
The Colombian air forces’ aircraft maintainers observed their U.S. counterparts closely during their two weeks together, learning everything from ramp operations to safety equipment while facilitating a productive and comfortable stay for the U.S. Airmen.
“My mission these two weeks is to stay all the time with them, to do all the efforts so they can complete the mission,” said Colombian air force Capt. William Quintero, maintenance planning chief.
Quintero was the Colombian air force liaison for the 169th FW’s maintenance personnel and facilitated their stay at his base, setting them up for a successful two-week stay during the exercise. The mission of keeping eight fighter jets airworthy far from home required planning, execution and cooperation from Colombia.
“The moment we showed up at the hangar, Capt. Quintero was open handshake and getting us everything we needed,” said Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Peelman, 169th Maintenance Group. “He has made our mission, from the maintenance side, completely successful.”