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AFSOUTH Airmen build relationships, strengthen bonds at FIDAE

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kelly Ogden
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
More than 60 Airmen from across the Air Force returned to their home bases after supporting Feria Internacional del Aire y del Espacio (FIDAE) International Air and Space Exposition in Santiago, Chile, the largest combined air and trade show in South America, March 26 - April 2.

The seven-day effort included Airmen hosting tours for members of the surrounding community, exchanging information with military and government staffs and working alongside local charities to give back to the community. The USAF's participation in FIDAE showcases the U.S. commitment to work with regional partners in ways that strengthen friendships, bolster partner nation capacity, expand cooperation between Airmen and enhance regional security.

FIDAE 2012 gave the United States Air Force an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships with regional partners so that they could come together for important operations such as countering transnational organizational crime, humanitarian and disaster relief, supporting peacekeeping operations, training and exercises, multinational engagements and supporting human rights throughout the Western Hemisphere.

"Our partnerships are extremely important to regional stability," said Col. Stephen Pedrotty, the 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) director of operations and United States Air Force air boss for the event. "We're all working in a fiscally constrained environment, yet we're all still making this important mission happen.

During FIDAE Airmen from four bases displayed military hardware, shared an Airman culture and celebrated aviation with more than 120,000 attendees. Two F-16's and a C-130 Hercules from the Texas Air National Guard and a KC-10 out of the 349th Air Mobility Wing from the Air Force Reserve drew spectators from across the globe, which allowed Airmen the opportunity to meet with members of the public, partner nation military members and media from around the world, sharing the Air Force story.

"Interacting with the host nation and other South American militaries was a great overall experience," said Col. John Kane, the 149th Fighter Wing commander leading the F-16 team. "We're all getting a better understanding of the militaries in this region and realizing that we all have basically the same military purpose, requirements and risks."

Many Airmen were able to reach out to Chilean Air Force members to build camaraderie, share a common Airman culture and strengthen bonds during their air show visit at FIDAE 2012, which allowed them to exchange ideas and thoughts about how to integrate the two nation's capabilities to prepare them to work together in the future.

"Meeting and interacting with the Chilean KC-135 crew and sharing our experiences was a phenomenal experience ... I learned a lot about their systems and how they differ from ours" said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Phillips, an in-flight refueling technician on the KC-10 Extender with the 349th Air Mobility Wing out of Travis AFB, Calif. "I just want to personally thank the Chilean Air Force for inviting us down to participate in this amazing aviation event."

The United States and Chile are inherently linked by cultural, historical, geographic and economic ties, and for one Airman the graciousness that came from the Chilean community reminded him of his home country, which drove him to give back.

"Chile feels very similar to my Latin American roots, it's like seeing a little piece of my home culture again and it was refreshing," said Maj. Jorge Caro, and intelligence officer with the 136th Airlift Wing with the Texas Air National Guard. "It was important for me to build relationships and to do something for the Chilean community, and just seeing the smiles that the people brought with them was touching to me."