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Neighbors helping neighbors: Air Force maintenance team work with Chileans to build a more secure tomorrow

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Adam Grant
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
Active engagement with our neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean contributes to regional and U.S. security. The U.S. military builds this regional security through sustained engagement with partner nations to deter adversaries, preserve stability, support allies and partners, and cooperate with others to address common security challenges.

Master Sgt. Jeremy Jacobs, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) tactical aircraft manager, was the team lead for a four-week training session that took place in both Antofagasta and Iquique, Chile, which focused on perfecting maintenance procedures and using night vision goggles. 

Alongside him from the United States Air Force were Master Sgt. Cari Webb, 563rd Rescue Group aircrew flight equipment superintendent, and Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Kelley, 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 12 F-16 avionics instructor.

The four-week journey, which corresponded with United States Southern Command's priorities of building partner capacity through sustained engagement, gave the Airmen first-hand experience.

During their time in Chile, the members visited Fuerza Aérea de Chile (Chilean air force) bases throughout the country. They were able to work with members of the Chilean air force and stand up a maintenance system to be used in Antofagasta, which led to members being fully qualified on the system.

"This experience has been both useful and important for both sides and has brought us closer together for the overall goal of success," said Chilean air force Sergeant Andres Bahamondes-Velasquez.

As the week progressed, signs of a strengthening partnership were shown through the exchange of personal experiences in areas such as technical order's.

"One of the biggest things I've noticed is the desire for the Chileans to improve their air force and take amazing steps towards the future," Jacobs said.

The Airmen were also able to successfully meet all training objectives while also establishing a very strong partnership.

"During this trip I've learned that though we follow technical orders, sometimes it takes a little initiative and good decision making to think outside the box and accomplish a task," Jacobs said.

Although the team learned that the two countries do things slightly different, both have the same goals of wanting to better their Air Forces and keep sorties in the air.

"Working with the members from the United States Air Force has been amazing," said Chilean air force Airman Pedro Aguilera, life support technician. "Their knowledge of the different systems is great but I think the part that amazed me was when I was able to actually assist them and showed them a few different ways to do things that make the different pieces to the equipment last longer and make common tasks more efficient,"

The team has been partnering with Chilean air force for the last 15 months, and has seen success working with the Chileans.

"To see the members of the Chilean air force pick up on information while being able to fully understand the information is very good. But the remarkable part is that they're able to find ways of improving what we've been able to explain to them, and that ingenuity is propelling their air force in the right direction," Webb said.

The team has had a front-row seat in both viewing and building partner capacity, and they look forward to future endeavors with the Chilean air force.

"It was really rewarding to work with them," Jacobs added. "The partnership that we've developed with them has been very instrumental. Sometimes it's not about the assistance that you provide but what you can learn from the individuals you're assisting."