U.S. Air Force personnel from four bases in the United States travelled to South America to work with the Colombian armed forces as part of a mobile training team from February 11 through March 11 at two air bases in Colombia.
The team was comprised of 15 air advisors from the 571st MSAS at Travis Air Force Base, California, and six total force instructors from three other U.S. Air Force units. The training covered a variety of areas of cooperation between the U.S. and Colombia. It aimed at supporting Colombia in their pursuit to counter transnational and transregional threat networksm aerial firefighting, and to enhance the capability of the Fuerza Aerea Colombiana, their air force also known as the FAC.
Additionally, the 571st MSAS team provided ground training to the Colombian air force on Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems, or MAFFS, a system loaded into the back of a C-130 aircraft that drops fire retardant to aid in stopping the spread of wildfires.
Aerial firefighting capability will help the FAC in combatting wildfires, both internally and internationally. The specialized training provided by the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command personnel was a stepping stone to future work with the FAC on further enhancing this capability.
“While a very effective fire-fighting tool, this specific mission set requires consistent practice,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard Pantusa, 731st Airlift Squadron MAFFS instructor pilot from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. “It is inherently a dangerous mission — flying low over mountainous terrain that is on fire. The FAC has a new MAFFS program that includes highly motivated and knowledgeable C-130 operators who are attempting to grow their MAFFS program.”
While training on the diverse capabilities of the C-130 was the main focus of the mission, the 571st MSAS air advisors also took the opportunity to support additional U.S. Southern Command lines of effort by continuing to develop interoperability between the U.S. and Colombia.