AFSOUTH hosts Air Chiefs during Regional Air Chiefs Conference
By Capt. Nathan D. Broshear , Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
/ Published February 26, 2009
MIAMI, Fla. -- Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, the Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) commander, often reminds Airmen working in the AFSOUTH area of focus, "We build partnerships one Airman at a time."
This week in Miami, the Commander and his team worked to build partnerships with Latin American peers as AFSOUTH welcomed general officers and representatives from 10 foreign Air Forces to discuss issues related to regional security, countering airborne drug traffic and joint plans to assist in radar and aircraft modernization.
In addition to Central American nations, the 12th AF (AFSOUTH) commander was joined by Maj. Gen. Hank Morrow, the First Air Force (Air Forces Northern) commander, and Air Chiefs from the Dominican Republic and Mexican Air Forces. Along with Airmen from Colombia, these Air Forces are on the front lines combat with drug traffickers and narcoterrorists, said Gen. Seip.
"These discussions illustrate how serious and committed to a cooperative solution partner nations and Air Force members from across commands are -- we're attacking the problem on many fronts," he added.
One of the key topics discussed during the event was the Regional Aircraft Modernization Program, a program to assist Central American Air Forces in procuring new aircraft. Under RAMP, the United States would share a portion of new helicopter and airlift aircraft procurement costs with participants and help to emplace long-term maintenance and training contracts. Partner nations would each receive dedicated aircraft, while maximizing shared resources and reaping the benefits of the regionalized solution.
RAMP participants, would then be able to participate in combined disaster response efforts, work together on combating the flow air traffic associated with illegal drug trade and maintain sovereignty over their airspace, explained Gen. Seip. During the conference, four nations signed a non-binding agreement to move forward with future RAMP plans.
"By regionalizing training and maintenance operations, our partner nations will be able to work together to keep costs down and provide enhanced capabilities and opportunities to assist their citizens," said Gen. Seip. "This program will enable a host of sovereign options, humanitarian and disaster response ability, as well as, military and law enforcement capacity for partner nations."
In addition to RAMP, Air Chiefs from Central America conferred over developments in radar modernization programs. "Ensuring civilian flight safety and helping to secure sovereign borders are key aspects of this program," explained Gen. Seip. "By regionalizing a modern radar solution, Central American nations can work together to increase air commerce, boost tourism, detect and counter drug runners while providing an accurate air picture to the consortium -- the benefits of teamwork and cooperation are endless."
Discussions were two-way, with US and Latin American Airmen 'listening and learning' with each new briefing. Panamanian Col. Rigoberto Gordon, General Director, National Aero-Naval Service, praised the AFSOUTH commitment to building genuine, lasting relationships between Airmen.
(in Spanish, via English translator) "General Seip and AFSOUTH have visited with me three times this year to discuss ways to work together," he said. "The reason I am here today is the strong relationship we have with the U.S. Air Force and your commander."
Colonel Gordon is already seeing the effects of this relationship as Panamanian Airmen graduate in increasing numbers from AFSOUTH's Inter-American Air Force Academy Non-Commissioned Officer training courses and participation in PANAMAX, a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, multi-national exercise focused on the defense of the Panama canal, has continued to grow.
"Later this year we will increase the complexity of PANAMAX by combining two scenarios and have more participants than ever before," said Colonel Gordon.
The Colonel's comments were roundly echoed by participants as they discussed upcoming multi-national exercises, training opportunities, deployments and humanitarian outreach projects.
During the conference, every participating nation had an opportunity to present their issues, challenges and future plans to the group. Later, leaders held one-on-one bilateral meetings with Gen. Seip and his team. During breaks and meals, participants could be seen swapping stories, business cards, photos and informational briefings -- bonding over the shared experiences of military service.
"Everyone here at the Regional Air Chiefs Conference has a voice and a seat at the table," concluded General Seip. "We will only solve tomorrow's challenges together, so meetings such as this are vital in ensuring our combined success."