By Staff Sgt. Alexa Becerra, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
QUITO, Ecuador – Seven Kentucky Army National Guard Soldiers participated in an engagement focused on Aviation capabilities in Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador, August 25-30.
The team consisted of two UH-60 Pilots, a Senior Flight
Medic, the State Partnership Program coordinator for Kentucky, the Kentucky
Army National Guard J5 Deputy Plans Director, an Avionics NCO/Interpreter, and
a Public Affairs NCO/Interpreter.
The Kentucky National Guard has partnered with Ecuador for more
than two decades as part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership
Program (SPP). The goal of the SPP is to develop and maintain important
security relationships between the United States and other nations sharing a
long-term view of common interests.
“The Ecuadorian Army and Air Force wanted to discuss helicopter aviation operations and learn the Kentucky National Guard’s best practices for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster response,” said Maj. Stephen Martin, Operations Officer for the 751st Aviation Troop Command and UH-60 Blackhawk Pilot in Command. “This included formation flying, night vision goggles and high altitude training.”
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According to the Ecuadorian Geophysical Institute, Ecuador
is an area of intense seismic activity putting them at risk for earthquakes,
tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Other natural disasters Ecuador is prone to
are flooding, landslides and forest fires.
“Sharing their knowledge on Search and Rescue operations,
Bambi buckets, and formation flights will assist us in our training,” said 2nd
Lieutenant Jurado Andres, Army Aviation Group 45 “Pichincha” Helicopter Pilot.
“The knowledge gained on Night Vision Goggle operations will be very valuable,
because we are starting our program once again after 12 years.”
Many of the practices learned will be taken into account as
the Ecuadorian Army Aviation continues to develop their doctrine and training
of NVG and search and rescue operations, said Andres.
The Guardsmen also had the opportunity to visit with the
Ecuadorian Air Force in Guayaquil to discuss their techniques and procedures.
“Having the opportunity to share our experiences when it
comes to Search and Rescue and Natural Disaster Response assists us in refining
our procedures and training,” said Maj. Luis Fernando Armas Baez, Combat
Squadron Commander for the 22nd Air Wing of the Ecuadorian Air
Force. “Renewing the partnership we’ve had with the United States has been the
most productive part of this visit.”
In the future, Armas said he would like to conduct joint training
exercises and build up to operate collectively in the event of a natural
The visit was mutually beneficial and productive. The Kentucky
Guard left with a better understanding of Ecuadorian Aviation practices, and
looking forward to learning from them as well.
“We bring a wealth of knowledge on operations under night
visions goggles, while we found that our Ecuadorian Army Aviators had much more
experience with mountain operations than we have,” said Martin. “They’re
intimately familiar with flying around the mountains at 9,000 feet while we get
very little opportunity to fly in those conditions.”
Moving forward, the goal is to continue growing the enduring
relationship between Kentucky and Ecuador.
“Kentucky has had a long and storied history with Ecuador
going back to 1996. We’re excited to breathe new life into this program and
take it in new directions,” said Martin. “Our Ecuadorian counterparts are
excited as well and looking forward to the partnership evolving and growing
over the coming years.”