LIMA, Peru - West Virginia Air National Guard members participated in a week-long humanitarian assistance and disaster response exercise in Peru May 7-12.
The exercise, Cooperacion IX, was led by the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces. SICOFAA unites air forces of the Western Hemisphere and enhances partner nations’ interoperability in support of large-scale emergencies.
Cooperacion IX took place on Callao Air Base in Lima with 13 partner nations, 20 aircraft and about 1,000 aviators. Participants planned and controlled air operations, including aeromedical evacuations, logistics transport, and search and air rescue.
A C-17 Globemaster from the 167th Airlift Wing transported about 50 personnel. During the exercise, members of the 167th Medical Group and 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron demonstrated ground and air patient transport capabilities.
“These exercises give us the time to work with our partner nations, learn how they plan and develop their operations so that we can integrate with them and assist them in the future,” said Col. James Freid-Studlo, West Virginia Air National Guard director of operations. “Our goals here are twofold; to support our Peruvian partners as they run this exercise and develop future exercises, and also to develop interoperability, not just with Peru, but with all of the SICOFAA members.”
The West Virginia Air National Guard has been building relations with Peru since 1996 through the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program. Humanitarian assistance and disaster response is only one of several objectives of the partnership between the two military forces.
“This exercise affords us the opportunity to leverage the WVNG and Peru partnership and help us build on those critical relationships,” said Lt. Col. Luis Calvo, foreign area officer assigned to the Secretary of the Air Force International Affairs Directorate at the Pentagon.
“Additionally, with the C-17 coming downrange, we were
able to deliver an ambulance, firefighting equipment, and a pallet of water to the Peruvian government and we were able to bring Project Arcwater to demonstrate its unique capabilities,” Calvo said.
Project Arcwater is an innovative system that saves energy and provides drinking water by using solar fabric and an atmospheric generator to make water or filter water from contaminated sources in austere locations or during natural disasters. By carrying out this capability in real-time, Airmen participate in a readiness mission, demonstrating their ability to react to a potentially unanticipated scenario as it emerges.
Freid-Studlo encouraged Airmen to participate in State Partnership Program events and exercises like Cooperacion IX.
“State Partnership is an important, strategic program for not only the West Virginia Air National Guard but for the country as a whole,” said Freid-Studlo. “When conflicts arise, the Guard often has the strongest relationships with other nations. We need to build continuity from the top to the bottom and continually develop relationships.”
Mutually beneficial alliances and partnerships are an enduring strength for the United States, and the 30-year-old State Partnership Program has proven critical to achieving national defense strategic objectives.