Air Forces Southern (AFSOUTH) hosted 65 total force members from Air Force International Affairs, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Special Operations Command-South, Army South, Joint-Interagency Task Force South, Air National Guard Bureau, Air Education and Training Command, Air Mobility Command, the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, 571st and 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadrons (MSAS) and State Partnership Programs to finalize country engagement plans during the AFSOUTH Cooperation Workshop here, Jan. 27 – Feb. 1.
“With almost 90 percent representation throughout our AOR…these workshops are getting better every year,” said Tyrone Barbery, 12th AF (AFSOUTH) deputy chief, Security Cooperation Division and workshop manager. “By integrating our forces we achieve synergy and save resources…synchronizing our efforts is key to being able to collectively engage with partner nation air forces to enhance capabilities such as building partnership capacity, countering transnational organized crime and humanitarian and disaster relief.”
A large portion of the conference was dedicated to building relationships with partner nations in Latin America and the Caribbean. Spearheading this effort is the 571st MSAS, a unit geared at building partnership capacity, and the Air Force Section Chiefs (AFSEC), who work as part of the U.S. Embassy Country Team in countries such as Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay.
“You’re really why we exist,” Lt. Gen. Robin Rand, 12th AF (AFSOUTH) commander, said to the workshop attendees. “You’re the ones down there every day with our partner nation brothers, paving the way to support efforts such as building partnership capacity, humanitarian and disaster relief efforts and countering transnational organized crime.”
The AFSECs are “downrange” in the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility (AOR) as part of a special military team known as the military group/military liaison office. These military members spend anywhere between 12 to 36 months, depending on location, as the ground U.S. Air Force representative to partner nation counterparts. Their number one priority is to build relationships with partner nations through military-to-military engagements, daily interactions and collaborative efforts aimed at accessing partner nation air forces as well as advising, training and equipping host nation air forces.
“Working side-by-side, leads to lasting stability and security in our hemisphere,” Rand said. “Our militaries’ future success in the world’s complex, uncertain and competitive operating environment will increasingly rest on a partnership that builds on supporting regional and global security.”
The 571st MSAS also significantly contributes to the AFSOUTH mission of building partnerships by promoting regional stability, fostering key relationships and enhancing partner nation capabilities by working side-by-side with partner nation air force members to develop seven core competencies of air base defense, air traffic control, aircraft maintenance, aircrew survival, communications, generator maintenance and safety. The unit participates in mutually beneficial exchanges with partner nation air forces to allow for a better understanding of one another’s strengths and weaknesses. This type of exchange is beneficial because if a crisis or contingency operation occurs in the future the partner nation air forces will be better prepared to respond together.