U.S. Airmen Participate in Colombian-Led Search, Rescue Exercise

Two U.S. Air Force aircraft and more than 90 U.S. airmen are participating in Angel de los Andes, a Colombian-led international search and rescue training exercise here that began Sept. 3 and runs through Sept. 14.

The Air Combat Command No. 5 unit at Arturo Lema Posada Air Base is the staging ground for the exercise. This is the second time the Colombian air force has conducted Angel de los Andes. The first was in 2015.

“I’m confident that Angel de los Andes, with its mission to save lives, will extend and further our relationship, cooperation and exchange of best practices which will benefit the U.S. and Colombian air forces,” said Gen. Carlos Eduardo Bueno Vargas, the Colombian air force’s chief of staff. “The significant importance of the U.S. being here is that we have the opportunity to strengthen our relationship so we can be prepared to confront future threats together.”

Globemaster, Hercules Aircraft

A C-17 Globemaster III from the 14th Airlift Squadron at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, and a C-130 Hercules from the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 133rd Airlift Squadron are among the eight U.S. Air Force active, Guard and Reserve components participating.

“The U.S. has been our ‘big brother’ for many years, and we have a special relationship based on gratitude and respect, and that is why they are our guest of honor to this important exercise,” Bueno Vargas said. “While all of the participating countries are important Colombian allies, the U.S. has a special relationship with Colombia, since they have helped us overcome our most difficult moments, not only for the Colombian air force, but also for Colombia as a whole against narcoterrorism and drug-trafficking threats.”

The first week of the exercise is focused on responding to natural disaster scenarios that include earthquake response, forest fire and open-water rescue, as well as responding to an aircraft crash. The second week will focus on close air support and combat search and rescue techniques.

“In a real-world humanitarian assistance disaster response relief event in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility, we would expect to work with these same partner nations that are participating in this exercise,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Juan Pazarro, a 12th Air Force spokesman.

The exercise features more than 400 participants from 12 nations’ air forces. In addition to airmen from the United States and Colombia, airmen from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Panama, Peru and Uruguay are taking part.

“I think the Colombians have done a great job at integrating all of these different countries and all of the capabilities that they bring to this exercise,” Pizarro said.

Other U.S. units participating in the exercise include the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California; and the 48th Rescue Squadron, 306th Rescue Squadron, 612th Air Operations Center, 943rd Aerospace Medicine Squadron and 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern), all stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.