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Airmen, F-16s arrive in Colombia for bilateral engagement

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Airmen with the South Carolina Air National Guard landed in Rionegro, Colombia, near the city of Medellin to participate in a bilateral engagement with their Colombian counterparts.

Airmen and F-16 Fighting Falcons are slated to participate in the combined air operation engagement, which is the first major joint-air engagement opportunity under the auspices of the South Carolina's State Partnership Program, or SPP, with Colombia.

"This is the first time Colombian air force and South Carolina Air National Guard Airmen have had the opportunity to work side by side (and) share tactics, techniques, procedures, and engage their counterparts in an operational environment," said Lt. Col. Andrew Thorne, the SPP director with the South Carolina ANG.

The primary purpose for the exercise, dubbed "Relampago 2014" by the Colombian air force, is to prepare the two air forces to work together in the future, thus strengthening military-to-military relationships at all levels of command. Whether they join to provide natural disaster relief or humanitarian support, practicing together now will strengthen their ability to work as a team when needed.

"We are maintaining our different levels of training, exchanging experiences with each other to improve our international capabilities with other countries, additional experience for our Kfir pilots adds to our interoperability capability," said Colombian air force Gen. Guillermo Leon Leon (sic), the General of Air for the Colombian Air Force.

The exercise will allow the U.S. and Colombian Airmen to share tactics, techniques and procedures on many subjects including defensive air operations, operations coordination and scheduling, and best maintenance practices. All of which can be applied to maritime, littoral waters, over land areas of operations, and defense of national territory. Additionally, working side by side with their Colombian counterparts provides a chance to build camaraderie and fellowship amongst the two air forces.

"They really want to work with us, and we really want to work with them," said Senior Master Sgt. Martina Borg, the maintenance supervisor for the event.

The engagement builds upon a strong tradition of the Colombian air force successfully participating in joint-engagement together with the U.S. Air Force and other allied countries.