NEWS | Oct. 8, 2015

U.S. Army South takes part in Colombian army aviation conference

U.S. Army South Public Affairs

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 procedures. 


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 ground. 


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 ground forces.”