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Capability and joint operations at FOL Manta

  • Published
  • By Capt. Ashley Norris
  • 478th Expeditionary Operations Squadron Public Affairs
     With the addition of three Navy E-2C Hawkeyes, the 478th Expeditionary Operations Squadron is transforming into a more joint operation with Navy, Air Force, National Guard, Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection aircraft filling the ramp. 
     The 478th EOS at FOL Manta, Ecuador falls under U.S. Southern Command and Joint Interagency Task Force South, which coordinates missions in the Eastern Pacific Ocean to stop transnational narcotics movement. "JIATF dictated that we needed to enhance our mission capability and the E-2 brings with it a unique competence that we may not have had," said Lieutenant Colonel Robert Leonard, commander of the 478 EOS. They are a great addition to the current footprint and capability of the FOL, he said. 
     Over the past year there has not been any long-term Navy personnel or aircraft staying at the FOL and this switch has required lots of coordination. One minor obstacle that presented itself was the different terminology that the Air Force and Navy use, said Captain Rod Rodriguez, the Assistant Director of Operations for the 478th EOS. "As far as making sure we're on the same sheet of music. Obviously they have their terms, we have our terms," but overall he said it has been very successful and the Navy addition to the mission was seamless. 
     Lieutenant Commander Teague "Swami" Swalm, Operations Officer for the Navy E-2 crew at FOL Manta was at the FOL two years ago and said, "it's a good and easy spot to operate out of" and right now, Manta is the best spot for his E-2 crew to support the war on drugs. 
     FOL Manta is strategically located in Manta, Ecuador and aircraft fly with the goal of finding ocean vessels that are transporting illegal narcotics. Typically used by narco-traffickers are fishing vessels, speed boats and semi-submersibles. Missions flying out of Manta are under U.S. Southern Command and follow Joint Interagency Task Force South's efforts in the Eastern Pacific Ocean to stop transnational narcotics movement. There are 12 member-countries in JIATF-S: United States, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Netherlands, Mexico, El Salvador, Great Britain, Spain and France. 
     As a result of the 438 missions launched in 2008 from FOL Manta, 102 metric tons of cocaine valued at over $2.05 billion were seized.