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SICOFAA celebrates 52nd Anniversary

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kelly Ogden
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
In 1961, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Thomas D. White invited senior air officers from 13 different countries to join him at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, for a meeting geared at strengthening bonds between the Air Forces in the Western Hemisphere.

That first meeting evolved into an annual conference now known as the Conference of the Air Chiefs of the Americas (CONJEFAMER) and has since grown to 19 member countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela).

Soon after the initial meeting, the partner air chiefs decided that they needed to have a system to create continuity from year-to-year, which lead to the creation of the System of Cooperation Among American Air Forces (SIFCOFAA).

SICOFAA is the "system" that puts "action" to CONJEFAMER...a true secretariat. The permanent secretariat was started in 1965 and since then the U.S. Air Force has hosted it; however it can be hosted by any nation. Every 4-5 years it comes up for renewal. Currently, the deputy secretary general position rotates amongst the other 18 member Air Forces for two year tours in alphabetical order.

"The cycle starts with a CONJEFAMER and then the bosses (19 different commanders) give us direction...this is really a system that belongs to every one of our 19 member Air Forces," said Col. Jose Sanchez, SICOFAA's secretary general. "We do workshops throughout the year with all of the Air Forces and then report back at the next conference on what we've accomplished, what advances we've made, and then we propose new short-term and long-term goals...starting the cycle again."

SICOFAA's primary mission is to promote and strengthen the ties of friendship and the mutual support of its participants through the sharing of common experiences, resources, the training and education of its personnel and all other activities that facilitate the development of procedures to act in a combined manner when directed by our governments.

"At the beginning the purpose of SICOFAA was to strengthen ties between countries, said Panamanian National AeroNaval Service Col. Jeremias Urieta, SICOFAA's deputy secretary general. "That is still one of our main reasons to exist, but our new focus is to strengthen the capabilities and the interoperability between the 19 members of SICOFAA to bring help to each other, with an emphasis on strengthening our capabilities in the area of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief."

The new focus of humanitarian assistance, disaster response, partnership capacity building and interoperability between partner nations has progressed rapidly over the past three years.

The organization hosted COOPERACION I in the tails of the Chilean earthquake of 2010.

After this exercise, a common use manual was created for humanitarian assistance and disaster response for all of the member countries in the Americas to use as a guide. The manual will be exercised for the very first time in a virtual coalition air operations center (CAOC) setting in Argentina next month during COOPERACION II. The progress of the exercise will then be reported at the annual CONJEFAMER conference in June.

As a follow up in April 2014, the 19 partner nations will participate in a live-fly exercise simulating a natural disaster (COOPERACION III) in Pisco, Peru. The exercise objective is to cooperate with the Peruvian governmental and military authorities to simulate a response to a "call for help" from a fellow partner nation.

"This has been what the majority of our work has been about the past 2-3 years," said Sanchez. "Each nation brings capabilities and then we synergize as a whole to maximize our capability...we are equals at the same table trying to make each other better by feeding off of one another."

In the future, SICOFAA hopes to refine the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief manual so that all 19 partner nations can train to the requirements needed to support such efforts.
SICOFAA will celebrate its 52nd Anniversary on April 16.