BARRANQUILLA, Colombia – About 100 Airmen and eight F-16 fighter jets from the South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing participated in Relampago VII, a combined Colombian and U.S. exercise.
The Aug. 26-Sept. 11 exercise focused on training techniques, tactics and procedures and strengthening interoperability between the U.S. and Colombian air forces as allies under NATO standards.
South Carolina is Colombia’s partner in the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program and has been training with the Colombian military for 10 years.
Lt. Col. David Way, a pilot with the 169th Fighter Wing, said this year’s exercise was different than previous versions in that it offered additional training over the ocean.
Way said he hopes organizers will “keep the ability to train together in the same location so we can brief and debrief together.” He said this is integral to relationship-building between the two nation’s pilots.
“Building the Relampago exercise since 2012 for sure lets us strengthen our partnership and lets us know that we are still allies and contributing to the stability in this region,” said Maj. Rommel Rodriguez, Colombian Air Force’s 111th Fighter Squadron commander.
He said the exercise is not just for pilots but also for maintenance and support crews.
The Colombian Air Force aircraft maintainers observed their U.S. counterparts closely during their two weeks together, learning everything from ramp operations to safety equipment.
“My mission these two weeks is to stay all the time with them, to do all the efforts so they can complete the mission,” said Colombian Air Force Capt. William Quintero, maintenance planning chief. Quintero was the Colombian Air Force liaison for the SCANG’s maintenance personnel.
Keeping eight fighter jets airworthy far from home requires planning, execution and cooperation.
“He has made our mission from the maintenance side completely successful,” said Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Peelman.
Pilots learning to work together in the skies to defeat an enemy helped strengthen the 10-year relationship between the two nations’ militaries, as did conversations about family, education and food before and after pre- and post-flight briefs, and a soccer match.