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South Carolina Air National Guard flies with Colombian counterparts

Members of the Colombian Air Force perform maintenance checks on a Kfir fighter jet during Exercise Relámpago in Barranquilla, Colombia, July 17, 2019.

Members of the Colombian Air Force perform maintenance checks on a Kfir fighter jet during Exercise Relámpago in Barranquilla, Colombia, July 17, 2019. The South Carolina Air National Guard is participating in the Colombian Air Force exercise, which is meant to strengthen bonds of friendship and cooperation between the U.S. Air Force and the Colombian Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Danny Rangel)

Lt. Col. Stephen Kaminski, 169th Fighter Wing F-16 pilot, speaks with aircrew from the Colombian Air Force during Exercise Relámpago in Barranquilla, Colombia, July 17, 2019.

Lt. Col. Stephen Kaminski, 169th Fighter Wing F-16 pilot, speaks with aircrew from the Colombian Air Force during Exercise Relámpago in Barranquilla, Colombia, July 17, 2019. Aircrew from the South Carolina Air National Guard traveled to Colombia to participate in the exercise as part of the State Partnership Program, a DoD sponsored initiative meant to link Air National Guard units with partner nation air forces in order to build long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships between nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Danny Rangel)

An F-16 pilot from the 169th Fighter Wing, South Carolina Air National Guard, prepares for a flight during Exercise Relámpago in Rionegro, Colombia, July 16, 2019.

An F-16 pilot from the 169th Fighter Wing, South Carolina Air National Guard, prepares for a flight during Exercise Relámpago in Rionegro, Colombia, July 16, 2019. The Colombian Air Force invited the South Carolina Air National Guard to participate in the exercise, which focused on air-to-air training and combat search and rescue operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Danny Rangel)

A crew chief from the 169th Fighter Wing, South Carolina Air National Guard, prepares an F-16 Fighting Falcon for flight during Exercise Relámpago in Rionegro, Colombia, July 16, 2019.

A crew chief from the 169th Fighter Wing, South Carolina Air National Guard, prepares an F-16 Fighting Falcon for flight during Exercise Relámpago in Rionegro, Colombia, July 16, 2019. The South Carolina Air National Guard is participating in the exercise as part of the State Partnership Program, a Department of Defense program meant to link Air National Guard units with partner nation air forces in order to create cooperative, mutually beneficial relationships between nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Danny Rangel)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 169th Fighter Wing, South Carolina Air National Guard, taxis toward the runway at the José María Córdova International Airport, Rionegro, Colombia, July 16, 2019.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 169th Fighter Wing, South Carolina Air National Guard, taxis toward the runway at the José María Córdova International Airport, Rionegro, Colombia, July 16, 2019. The South Carolina Air National Guard is in Colombia to participate in Exercise Relámpago, a Colombian-led exercise meant to improve interoperability and cooperation between the U.S. Air Force and the Colombian Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Danny Rangel)

Members of the 169th Fighter Wing, South Carolina Air National Guard, pose for a photo with members of the Colombian Air Force during Exercise Relámpago in Barranquilla, Colombia, July 17, 2019.

Members of the 169th Fighter Wing, South Carolina Air National Guard, pose for a photo with members of the Colombian Air Force during Exercise Relámpago in Barranquilla, Colombia, July 17, 2019. The exercise is focused on air-to-air training and combat search and rescue operations, and is also an opportunity to strengthen ties of friendship and cooperation between the U.S. and Colombia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Danny Rangel)

RIONEGRO, Colombia --

Four F-16 Fighting Falcons and Airmen from the South Carolina Air National Guard flew down to Colombia to participate in Relámpago IV, a training exercise with the Colombian Air Force Kfir fighter jets, July 15-18, 2019.

The exercise allowed the U.S. and Colombian Airmen to enhance their interoperability, focusing on training in air-to-air and combat search and rescue operations. 

“The goal of [this exercise] is being able to build better ties amongst each other,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Kaminski, 169th Fighter Wing F-16 pilot.  “It’s being able to have that understanding so that we’re able to exercise in a mission set…and be able to be synchronized together and be able to operate efficiently and effectively.” 

Members of the Colombian Air Force cited the Relámpago exercise as an example of two nations combining efforts to ultimately improve together. 

“Two countries can do more together than they can alone,” said Second Sergeant Oscar Turco, Colombian Air Force aircraft technician.  “This is accomplished through exercises like Relámpago, in which the skills of both countries are merged and we see what works and what doesn’t and how we can improve.” 

The F-16s and Airmen also took part in the Feria Aeronáutica Internacional - Colombia (F-AIR), an international air show in Rionegro, Colombia prior to the exercise.  At the air show, the display of the F-16s proved popular with the pilots and crew engaging with Colombians throughout the duration of the show. 

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Demonstration Team and B-52s from the 307th Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana also participated in F-AIR.  The air show was another opportunity to continue to build and enhance the partnerships between the U.S. and Colombian air forces while also celebrating the Colombian Air Force's 100th Anniversary.

The South Carolina Air National Guard often trains with their Colombian partners through the State Partnership Program.  The State Partnership program pairs state National Guard units with countries around the globe, allowing persistent engagement and training with those countries.  South Carolina and Colombia have been partners for over seven years.

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