Story by: 2nd Lt. Stephen Hudson
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. – The South Carolina Air National Guard welcomed officers from the Colombian air force this week as part of a key leader engagement and subject matter expert exchange.
The commander of the Colombian air force, General of Air Guillermo Leon Leon, and six Colombian air force officers visited the base for three days, taking time to meet with F-16 flight operations and maintenance subject matter experts from the 169th Fighter Wing.
In addition, the ColAF visitors received a tour of the base’s Army Aviation facilities and the SCANG Eagle Vision complex – the unclassified Air Force Tactical Mobile Satellite Ground Station that produces near real-time unclassified commercial imagery for use by various government agencies.
The three days at McEntire will only strengthen ties between the South Carolina Air National Guard and Colombian air force, said Lt. Col. Andrew Thorne, SCANG State Partnership Program director.
“This is an excellent opportunity for us to share maintenance and flight operations best practices and work together,” said Thorne.
Leon said this was his first time here to South Carolina and wants to foster relationships between the South Carolina Air National Guard and the Colombian air force.
The three-day visit with the Colombian air force flight and maintenance officers is part of the South Carolina National Guard’s State Partnership Program with Colombia, which began in 2012. In August 2014, nearly 100 Swamp Fox Airmen and six F-16s traveled to Rionegro, Colombia, to train with the Colombian air force in an exercise called Relampago.
“We were happy with the results and it was an inspiration for our pilots,” Leon said of Relampago.
The State Partnership Program is a National Guard Bureau program that began in 1991 in Eastern Europe. Today there are 74 nations participation in this SPP initiative. Through SPP, the National Guard conducts military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals to facilitate broader interagency engagements spanning military, government, economic and social areas of common interests.
Since its launch in 2012, when the South Carolina National Guard introduced its State Partnership Program in the Republic of Colombia, South Carolina has focused on establishing long-term relationships where Colombia and South Carolina promote mutual interests and build lasting capabilities for both partners.