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President of Colombia honors military efforts to combat narcoterrorism

  • Published
  • By Capt. Nathan D. Broshear
  • 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern Public Affairs
Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, Commander 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern accepted the "Air Force Cross for Aeronautical Merit -- Grand Cross Category" medal on behalf of the men and women of 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern Nov. 14 in Bogota, Colombia.

Presented by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, the medal signified the profound appreciation felt by Colombian citizens, military members and government officials for decades of American assistance and partnership.

"This medal (is presented) to the members of military forces that have distinguished themselves for participating in a permanent way in operations against narcoterrorists, interdiction of narcoterrorist's aircraft and joint planning operations that would benefit the internal order of this country," stated President Uribe. (Original quote in Spanish -- translation provided by 12th Air Force)

"It's rare for a U.S. Airman to be recognized in this manner," said Lt. Col. Alberto Moreno, the 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern political advisor. "Clearly, military members should understand the deep gratitude felt by the people of Colombia -- embodied in this award is a heartfelt 'thank-you' for our military efforts in their country."

12th Air Force and AFSOUTH missions in Colombia have included specialized medical support, such as dentistry, dermatology, gynecology, internal medicine, optometry and pediatric treatment; robust construction projects to build schools and hospitals, and the drilling of fresh water wells to provide sanitary drinking water to impoverished locales inside Colombia. In cooperation with the Colombian government, the command also participates in military exercises and training events, airshows and outreach programs, as well as, subject-matter expert exchange opportunities to broaden military member's cross-culture perspectives and to strengthen military-to-military relations among all ranks. 

The award citation harkened to these missions. "The (Colombian) government must therefore recognize the effort of the military people, since their achievements contribute to the constitutional objectives, territorial sovereignty and defense of the institutions of this country," said President Uribe during the ceremony. (Original quote in Spanish -- translation provided by 12th Air Force)

Assisting our partner nations is a key mission for military members who deploy to U.S. Southern Command's area-of-responsibility, explained General Seip.

"This award proves how significant our efforts in this region are to improving the lives of the men and women of our partner nations," said General Seip. "This would not have been possible without the Herculean efforts of the men and women I serve alongside -- the military members working everyday at 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern -- this medal is an honor bestowed on the Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who've worked to strengthen the bonds of friendship with the people of Colombia."

The ceremony was widely covered by Latin American press and attended by hundreds of civilians and military personnel. The Colombian Air Force Cross for Aeronautical Merit -- Grand Cross Category medal, sash and ribbon will be displayed in the 12th Air Force headquarters. 

"This is only the beginning," added General Seip. "Our friendship with the people of Colombia will continue to grow as more U.S. personnel have the opportunity to serve in this region and experience the culture and personal rewards of knowing your hard work is valued by our partners in South America."