By Senior Master Sgt. Mike Arellano, 149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 08, 2014
SANTIAGO, Chile -- About 50 members of the Texas Air National Guard joined international partners for the annual FIDAE (Feria Internacional del Aire y del Espacio) here, March 23-31, 2014. FIDAE is an international trade exhibition air and space show, and includes military and civilian partners and organizations from across the globe.
Texas and Chile work together through the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program (SPP), and collaborate on numerous projects, including information exchanges and the sharing of best practices.
"It was 2005, when the relationship (informally) began with the Chileans," said Brig. Gen. Brian C. Newby, chief of staff and deputy commander of the Texas Air National Guard. "It's matured significantly since then. The number of engagements that we have has increased to the extent that we're now one of the states with the largest number of engagements, and Chile is that partner that we have the largest number of engagements with."
The purpose of the engagements is multifaceted and relationship driven.
"There are two things at play," Newby said. "One is: the interchange of subject matter experts with the Chilean military on different weapon systems, on different organizational structure, logistics - all of that is very important. What we're trying to convey to them is that we're trying to learn as much from them as they're trying to learn from us."
"The second most important piece to the relationship is the personal interactions," Newby said. "Being able to develop personal relationships, so that if we ever are in a position where we need to have greater coordination with the Chileans, we have the ability to pick up the phone and call a person who not only puts a face to the name, but also experiences, (and) friendship to that name. And that's what's so very, very important about the SPP program."
The Texas ANG showcased missions from the 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, Texas, and the 136th Airlift Wing, based at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, in Fort Worth, Texas.
The primary U.S. federal mission of the 149th Fighter Wing is to train pilots to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft, but the wing also has assets and personnel that are available to the Texas governor and civil authorities to assist with the state's homeland response force and a myriad of other state missions.
"The Chileans are now purchasing F-16s from one of the Scandinavian countries," Newby said, "and that's going to significantly increase our need to have further engagements with them. As they transition into the F-16 - into a newer model F-16, than what they currently have - that's going to give us greater opportunity for further engagement."
The 136th Airlift Wing maintains and operates a fleet of C-130 Hercules aircraft to provide airlift capabilities for the U.S. Air Force, and can help provide a timely National Guard response for the state of Texas and the Gulf Coast region of the United States during any emergency management or disaster situation.
"[The Chileans] fly the C-130, they are very proficient in the C-130 (and) our engagements with the 136th and Chile are very, very strong," Newby said. "You've got two mature air forces working on the same weapons system and being able to exchange good ideas about how those weapons systems can operate."
While the aircraft models have different technologies, the Texas ANG pilots and maintenance professionals were able to have meaningful exchanges with their Chilean counterparts.
"We also had the opportunity to do some cross-talk with C-130 operations and share best practices on tactical employment," said Maj. Josh Ritzmann, a pilot with the 136th Airlift Wing, in a previous report. "The talks helped enhance our relationship with the Chilean air force and broadened the scope of both U.S. and Chilean C-130 capabilities."
Master Sgt. Pete Soriano, an F-16 avionics specialist assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing, described his interactions.
"Basic principles and theories - they have it," Soriano said, even though the aircraft technological systems were not exactly the same. They shared common practices and differences when it comes to flight-line operations, troubleshooting and logistics.
"Sometimes it helps when you can think outside the box," Soriano said. "I explained to them, sometimes, yes, you're asking me for my experience, that what's we do."
"Most of the time it's this," Soriano said of a hypothetical troubleshooting issue, "so I'm going to go with that, I'll go straight to that (fix)" rather than follow the exact order of suggested fixes.
That judgment and confidence is something that develops through experience, he said.
In addition to flying and aircraft maintenance operations, there were exchanges related to medical readiness and disaster response.
"The (Texas) air flight surgeon was down this week doing subject matter exchanges with the Chileans," Newby said. "Primarily, we focus on the ability to respond for disaster relief purposes on the medical side."
"They have experience with search and rescue," Newby said. "They have experience with how do you take someone from a disaster environment, provide medical treatment, and then transfer to a more sophisticated medical environment. They have experience doing that and we have experience doing that. So being able to have that exchange has been very, very beneficial to us."
This particular exchange may have laid groundwork for many more potential future exchanges, in different areas, specifically in the legal field and the relationship built with Newby.
"I have not had a lot of interactions with the Chileans," said Newby, a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law who prior to becoming deputy commander served in the Judge Advocate General Corps.
"Legal engagements under the SPP program are an important piece that we have not put a lot of focus on, on the Air Guard side," Newby said. "On the Army Guard side they have a pretty robust set of legal engagements that they participate in, in a number of states, but not as much so in Texas."
This is something Newby said he is seeking to change, and that he will soon have an additional platform to propose such change.
Newby was recently selected to become the first Air National Guard Assistant to the Deputy Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Air Force, and will soon assume those duties.
"In essence, it will be the 'number two' lawyer in the Air National Guard, working for the 'number two' lawyer in the U.S. Air Force," Newby said. "It's a fantastic job, and it's one that I'm really looking forward to."
"What I would like to do," Newby said, "is taking from this new position the ability to create additional engagements for Air National Guard judge advocates. Because with the drawdown in the war, our judges advocates who need to have international law experience are not able to get that. So, SPP is the ability to bring that skill set to the fight on behalf of both the Air Force and the Air National Guard."
The future of the SPP relationship between Texas and Chile seems almost limitless in its potential, from sharing experiences about disaster response to methods involving the training of fighter pilots. There are many overlapping interests and exchange needs.
"It's all about relationships," Newby said. "This has been an outstanding experience."
Tech. Sgt. Phil Fountain contributed to this article.