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    Enduring partnerships while calling airstrikes

    14th ASOS trains Colombian JTACs

    Photo By Master Sgt. Matthew Lotz | T2 Wilmer Byron, a Colombian Air Force Aerial Special Operations Group (GROEA) air and...... read more read more



    Story by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Lotz 

    12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern)

    U.S. Air Force tactical air control party (TACP) Airmen deployed to the 474th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron, trained with Colombian Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Colombiana) Special Operations Group (GROEA) comandos during exercise Relampago VI in both Comando Aereo de Combate Number 5 (CACOM 5) Rionegro and Palenquero, Colombia, throughout the month of July.

    “Relampago VI is about bringing the U.S. and Colombian military together to openly train and build relationships with one another,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tyler Stewart, 474th EOSS joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) non commissioned officer in charge. “Getting the opportunity to share my experiences with them and vice versa is amazing.”

    U.S. Air Force JTACs are TACPs with the ability to use combat aircraft to engage in close air support (CAS) and other air operations from a forward position.

    The TACP Airmen, all proficient in the JTAC capability, provided training to the GROEA comandos on this skillset; as the Colombian military is beginning to integrate this proficiency into their force.

    “The GROEA comandos are more than just JTACs,” said Stewart. “These guys could also have the training of [explosive ordnance disposal], [pararescue], sniper-qualifications, dive-qualified and more. Most of their special forces have 15 plus years of experience in these skillsets and their stories are remarkable.”

    During this training, the Colombians provided realistic scenarios deep in the woods of Palenquero. Despite the many challenges the exercise brought, one hurdle that didn’t exist was the language barrier. This was because of two reasons: some of the GROEA comandos spoke English and the U.S. has a TACP that is bi-lingual with some of his family residing in Colombia.

    “I can’t think of a current opportunity that I am best suited for than to work with the Fuerza Aerea Colombiana as a United States Airmen,” says U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Antonio Videla, a TACP and qualified JTAC that helps interpret for his team. “It’s a uniquely, gratifying experience and I am tremendously proud that I am able to help in any way that I can.”

    One of these times was during a CAS scenario when the Colombians and Americans jumped into a truck and sped down a dirt road. While being chased by simulated enemies, both the Americans and Colombians radioed in a helicopter to exfiltrate in. Videla was given the opportunity by the GROEA comandos to signal the helicopter in for his Colombian counterparts.  

    “It’s always exhilarating to work with live air,” said Videla. “It was a new experience to control both fixed wing CAS and rotary wing with a foreign partner while moving through the jungle so quickly. I loved it.”

    According to the Colombian GROEA comandos, this exercise has also been one they won’t forget.

    “I am very happy about this training and being able to work with the American JTACs. I want to say ‘Thank you for their contribution' to all of them,” said Fuerza Aerea Colombiana Lieutenant Gabriel Useche, GROEA comando. “This training is very important for the Fuerza Aerea Colombiana and our unit to improve these different tactics and techniques. I look forward to sharing more information and hope we can continue this training in the future.”



    Date Taken: 07.21.2021
    Date Posted: 07.23.2021 11:27
    Story ID: 401511
    Location: PALENQUERO, CO

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