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Air Forces Southern commits to 'summer of engagement'

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Active-duty, Guard, and Reserve Airmen from across the Air Force are set to begin a host of missions with the Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) team in Central, South America and the Caribbean during the summer months of 2009. The surge in theatre security cooperation missions in the U.S. Southern Command area of focus is a high water mark for AFSOUTH as a large majority of the command's initiatives will take place in quick succession.

Operation Southern Partner is the first mission to kick off the busy summer. More than 60 Airmen from across the Air Force will board a C-130J Hercules 30 May to participate in the second iteration of this historic program in seven Caribbean and Latin American nations. The event is aimed at providing intensive, periodic subject matter exchanges with partner nation Air Forces in the US Southern Command area of focus.

Operation Southern Partner-Caribbean will include exchanges covering dozens of Air Force career specialties interfacing with host nation counterparts in Guyana, Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Belize. In addition to subject matter exchanges, the OSP team will conduct training sorties aboard their transport aircraft. A California Air National Guard C-130J from the 146th Airlift Wing at the Channel Islands, Calif., will fly several search and rescue sorties, including an over-water rescue jump by a Guardian Angel weapons system.

New Horizons is the next major operation in the AOF starting July 1. Nearly 650 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen are preparing to take part in the mission, a USSOUTHCOM-sponsored annual exercise designed to strengthen ties with partner nations through combined quality-of-life improvement projects. Since New Horizons started in the mid-1980's, the command has built schools and community centers, dug wells, provided medical care, and constructed clinics year after year at the request of numerous countries in the spirit of cooperation and friendship.

New Horizons Guyana is no different -- scheduled to last 75 days, it includes two major construction projects, one school remodel and eight medical readiness training exercises in the vicinity of Georgetown. The scope of planning for the $9 million exercise has taken 18 months to complete.

MEDRETE and medical deployments for training will surge as doctors and technicians spread out across the region. MEDRETEs and DFTs put Air Force medics, active-duty, guard, and reserve, into remote areas to provide patient care, from dentistry to life-altering surgeries. The medics partner with host nation ministries of health and non-government aid organizations to not only provide service, but help identify local needs to better serve the population in the future. 

AFSOUTH plans and participates in 30-35 medical DFTs a year. Nearly 400,000 patients are seen, and 3,500 surgeries performed in more than a dozen countries. DFTs coincide with ongoing missions in the area, such as the Amazonian Riverine Project in Peru and Continuing Promise 2009, a medical goodwill mission conducted from the USNS Comfort. 

All missions revolve around U.S. Southern Command's ongoing commitment to theater security cooperation, and are requested and coordinated with host nations. By sharing experiences, information, vital skills, tactics, techniques and procedures, the Airmen build partnerships with nations in Central, South America and the Caribbean, while strengthening friendships during AFSOUTH's cooperative events.

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