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AFSOUTH set to begin Operation Southern Partner in Caribbean

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- More than 60 Airmen from across the Air Force are preparing to board a C-130J Hercules on Saturday, 30 May to participate in the second iteration of "Operation Southern Partner" in seven Caribbean and Latin American nations. The Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern)-led 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, training sorties will be conducted aboard the 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.

"Operation Southern Partner is one of our keystone events -- a chance for Airmen to learn from their peers while imparting job-specific skills in areas requested by partner nations," explained the mission commander, Lt. Col. Al Struthers, 12th AF (AFSOUTH) Theater Security Cooperation Division chief. "We've assembled Airmen from all over the United States -- Active Duty , Guard and Reserve Airmen -- sharing information to help prepare participating nations for future law enforcement actions, natural disasters, assistance to the civilian populace, safety programs and force protection operations."

Exchanges are meant to have long-term benefit to participating nations, even in areas outside the usual military focus. "In St. Lucia, officials have found that tourists often wander off posted trails and get lost or trapped in mountainous areas," explained Colonel Struthers. "The Air Force is bringing mountaineering experts to assist the host nation in developing indigenous expertise to find, rescue and retrieve these hikers --these are activities not normally associated with Airmen, but Air Force search and rescue teams have a unique skill set that benefits our joint team in combat and will benefit partner nations in the Caribbean."

Exchanges in this iteration of OSP include Airmen from the following career fields:
- Public Affairs 
- Aircraft maintenance 
- General Medicine
- Search and Rescue 
- Morale, Welfare, Recreation 
- Civil Engineering
- Enlisted Military Education 
- Anti-terrorism 
- Force Protection
- Aircraft maintenance 
- Flight and Ground safety 
- Land and Air navigation
- Medical first responders 
- Firefighting

While the primary focus of OSP is mil-to-mil partnership, Airmen will also have the opportunity to volunteer in local communities. The Air Force Academy Band, Blue Steel, will lead community relations initiatives during daily outreach activities. The band is scheduled participate in their own type of exchanges with local schools, military and police force bands, then perform public concerts together with the blended groups at venues across the itinerary.

"We've had tremendous success in our community relations events," said Colonel Struthers. "Once Airmen participate in one of these opportunities and meet the children in local orphanages or the people of the host nation, they can't wait to volunteer again....it speaks volumes about the character of Airmen that they would put in a full work day, and then spend their free time giving back to the community."

"Operation Southern Partner is a tremendous opportunity for US Airmen to work alongside partner nation Airmen -- learning from each other new processes, tactics, techniques and procedures, to increase the effectiveness of our Air Forces during future operations, natural disasters, or humanitarian aid responses. The goal is to provide expertise to host nation Air Forces on the flightline, in the backshop, on base, and in the community while building and strengthening partnerships between professional Airmen," said Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, the 12th AF (AFSOUTH) commander.

OSP will last through June 13th as Airmen depart Belize to return to their bases.

Operation Southern Partner was conceived by the AFSOUTH Operations Division to complement to ongoing USSOUTHCOM Theatre Security Cooperation events. The first OSP event took place in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay in October 2008.

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