BOGATA, Columbia –
More than 30 countries and military forces participated in
the three-day International Aviation Conference of the Armies held in Bogota,
Colombia, Sept. 22-24. The Colombian Army hosted the event in downtown Bogota
as they celebrate 20 years of Colombian aviation assets in their military.
The three-day conference highlighted the strengths and
challenges within the aviation community as well as provided a forum to discuss
future plans on addressing interoperability, tactics, techniques and
An overriding theme throughout the three-day conference was
that no partner nation needed to defend their country alone. The shared
capabilities of coalition partners can collectively bring to the fight a full
range of operational, humanitarian or defense support to civil authority
assistance in fighting the enemy.
In preparation for potential engagement, the Colombian army
has the second largest S-70/UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter fleet. The
benefits of having a fleet so large include the Colombian army’s ability to
conduct combat rescue, training and security operations, as well as respond to
natural disasters and humanitarian assistance.
Colombian Brig. Gen. Emiro Jose Barrios Jimenez, Air Assault
Division commander, opened the conference highlighting the capabilities of the
division, as well as the challenges they face.
“With a conference like this, we have the ability to
communicate, share, understand and gain trust of one another,” Jimenez said.
“We are the savers from floods and fires, serving, helping
and giving a hand to the less protected, those suffering who really need our
help,” added Colombian Maj. Gen. Alberto Jose Mejia Ferrero, army commander,
emphasizing the importance of the army’s role.
With training and doctrine as the basis to building its
organization, Mejia notes the need to improve protection plans in order to
attack and defeat the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC,
with more modern operation concepts.
Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum, deputy commander and chief of staff
of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and former commander of the U.S.
Army Aviation Center of Excellence, addressed the conference pointing out the
commonality in using army aviation as a key enabler.
“The hardest thing we have to do, the hardest thing any
aviation force in the world has to do is, at night, enter into an objective,
into a target that may be contended by an enemy force, overcome the elements
and overcome the night,” Mangum said. “For those young Soldiers, it is a given
that the aviators and their crews supporting them will get them there safely
and more importantly, bring them home at the completion of their mission.”
Mangum emphasized the need for an inherent trust, for and in
army aviation the world over, to be there when needed for Soldiers on the
Maj. Gen. Richard Felton, commander of the Joint Helicopter
Command in the United Kingdom, also addressed the aviation delegation and
echoed Mangum’s remarks.
“We don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. One of the benefits
of a conference like this is we have a forum rich in opportunity to share
ideas,” added Felton. “It’s not about U.S. Army aviation, It’s about army
Aviation and being able to help the Soldier on the ground,” Felton said.
U.S. Col. Jason Halloren, Army South deputy commander for
support, represented the command and engaged with partner nation countries and
representatives because of his history and background in Army aviation.
Mangum, a second-generation aviator, said he felt the
conference, “reinforces important relations and builds trust, as well as
creates an understanding between aviation armies across the world who will
continue to have to interact in the future. It is remarkable to see what the
Colombians have been able to do in 20 years. They are well integrated with their