Story by Capt. Stephen Hudson
South Carolina National Guard
The Georgia Air National Guard (ANG) welcomed a group of visiting Colombian Air Force officers as part of a State Partnership Program (SPP) engagement, May 30- June 2, 2017. The weeklong exchange on Ground Control Intercept consisted of a tour of the unit and discussions with subject matter experts on how to improve the Colombian Air Force’s training plans for controllers.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Austin Blessard, Georgia ANG 117th Air Control Squadron (ACS) weapons and tactics non-commissioned officer in charge, hosted the Colombians during the engagement, spending the week answering questions and going over training plans and standards. The goal was to show the controllers from Colombia how the U. S. Air Force transforms an Airman fresh from initial training into a mission-ready controller trained to provide air-ground communication in a combat zone.
“It’s critical that our tactical abilities align, so these engagements are extremely important,” Blessard said. “A lot of the engagement was focused on U.S. standards, and how do we make someone a controller.”
He added, the week’s work focused on sharpening and improving the Colombian Air Force’s training plans.
Colombian Air Force Capt. Roridgo Nunez, Air Combat Command No. 7 instructor in Cali, Colombia, said the team met their goals to improve their training plans during the engagement.
“The most useful thing was how to build our air defense training school,” Nunez said. “Coming to the U.S. was a good experience for us…And we made some new friends.”
Nunez added when he returns to Colombia, there is a lot of work to do to improve the squadron’s training syllabus to mirror the U.S. Air Force’s plan of continuous training for new Airmen.
Prior to the team departing, plans were under way for Blessard and another teammate to travel to Colombia to take a deeper look at the Colombian Air Force’s training plans.
Since its launch in 2012, the South Carolina National Guard state partnership with the Republic of Colombia, has focused on establishing long-term relationships where Colombia and South Carolina can promote mutual interests and build lasting capabilities.
The National Guard’s SPP is uniquely qualified to connect experts together for information sharing and exchanging ideas. The Georgia ANG has supported the South Carolina National Guard’s SPP in the Ground Control Intercept line of effort, pairing experts from the 117th ACS with Colombian Air Force controllers.