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U.S., Peruvian Air Forces reach milestone

  • Published
  • By Staff Sergeant Lee Hoover
  • Air Force Print News
With the final latch of the helicopter's door and a ride away from a deserted terrain of Peru, the U.S. and Peruvian Air Forces completed their first joint combat search and rescue exercise in South America.

Coordinated with both countries by military and U.S. Embassy personnel, the combat search and rescue exercise was a major part of Falcon and Condor Exercise 2007, which allows the U.S. military to build relationships with military and civilian leaders of Peru.

The exercise scenario stranded a Peruvian and U.S. pilot in the middle of a deserted region of northern Peru. Once on the ground and in position, pilots were left to wait for Peruvian special forces to jump from a Puerto Rican Air National Guard C-130 Hercules and perform the rescue operation.

"The survivors were able to make contact with friendly forces and identify their position," said Master Sgt. Jesse Arnold, a survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist who was on the ground with the two pilots for the exercise scenario. "Because of that, the recovery forces were able to conduct a planned recovery of the forces."

Sergeant Arnold's role was to keep an eye out for safety concerns during the rescue operation. He also took the opportunity to share survival information with the Peruvian pilot stranded on the ground.

"I gave him an idea of some of the equipment that we use," he said. "I also showed him some of the different evasion principles we teach our U.S. pilots."

The Puerto Rico ANG also played a key role during the exercise. The C-130 aircrew was responsible for finding the pilots on the ground and delivering the Peruvian special forces who performed a high altitude, low opening, or HALO, jump from the C-130.

They were also responsible for command and control during the rescue operation, communicating with the Peruvian special forces from the skies above. The unique bilingual capabilities of the Puerto Rican ANG helped break down the sometimes problematic communication barrier.

"We have the same language, so we actually have a good understanding with each other," said Master Sgt. Adrian Rivera, a C-130 crewmember from the Puerto Rican ANG. "Sometimes it's easier for us when we talk Spanish and can help them out."

Once the Peruvian special forces touched ground and made their way to the pilots, they coordinated a helicopter rescue with help from the C-130 above. After lifting both pilots into the helicopter 100 feet above, the helicopter closed its doors and took off, marking the end to a successful and safe exercise.

"Safety is paramount," said Capt. Jeffrey Vissepo, the chief of safety for the Puerto Rico ANG. "Safety was put first in this exercise, and I was thoroughly impressed with the Peruvians."

Following the four-day exercise, teams from both air forces will travel to Lima, Peru, to participate in a joint air show. A number of U.S. aircraft will perform during the air show as well as serve as static displays.

The Peruvian air show will be the first of the year for the 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern. The joint exercise and air show directly support the U.S. Southern Command's engagement goals and further relations between allied nations.