• Published
  • By Maj. Sarah Schwennesen
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
For an injured service member, being flown to safety in a Colombian C-130 is seamless in Angel Thunder, where coalition members participate alongside their American rescue counterparts to bring anyone, anywhere, anytime, to safety.

In operations ranging from air drops, troop infill and exfill operations, to casualty evacuation for injured service members, the Colombian C-130 crew practiced their skills during Angel Thunder 13, demonstrating the versatility of the aircraft and its crewmembers.

This year was the first time Colombia has fully participated in Angel Thunder, coming in October 2011 as an international observer. The Colombian contingent came with a C-130, aircrew, aero-medical personnel, special forces troops and pararescuemen.

The Colombian Air Force Inspector General Maj. Gen. Juan Carlos Ramirez visited Angel Thunder to see first-hand the operations the Air Force contingent was participating in and the training value gained through the exercise.

Lt. Col. Ruben Torrenegra, Colombian Air Force C-130 aircraft commander said, "Initially, we were training in the employment of our techniques in multinational operations and interoperability with other countries. In doing so, we standardized tactical and operational procedures to improve our capabilities in rescue operations."

The Colombian Air Force is not a newcomer to personnel recovery operations, as the country has dealt with the violence due to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolutionaries de Colombia since 1964. Additionally, the Colombian Air Force has provided assistance in the Latin American region when natural disasters struck, such as earthquakes in Peru and Haiti and flooding in Panama and Costa Rica.

Personnel recovery operations are common for the Colombian Air Force, which saves an average of six lives each day in medical transport missions.

"They operate across Colombia's rugged and diverse topography, in extreme weather and under dangerous conditions," stated Col. Jorge Suarez, the Colombian Air Force Air Special Operations director. "Angel Thunder provided valuable training for the Colombian team, allowing personnel to unify procedures, be interoperable with forces from other countries and continue operating so that others may live."

The Colombian Air Force participation in Angel Thunder is a clear demonstration of the partnership between the Colombian and U.S. Air Force.

"Our aircrew, special forces and medical personnel work together and share their knowledge and expertise in the execution of their missions. During this (casualty evacuation) mission specifically, we are training together to evacuate injured persons and transporting the patients from conflict areas to secure areas where they can receive enhanced medical care," said Lt. Col. Torrenegra.

Suarez added, "These types of missions are very important for the Colombian Air Force, because social responsibility is one of our priorities. It is also important to note that respect for human rights is always a part of our mission because at many times we evacuate the victim and the terrorist in the same aircraft, because for us, they are victims with the same rights -- human rights."

In all, 3,017 joint, total force, coalition and interagency partners were trained and 109 aircraft participated in Angel Thunder 13. Exercise participants logged more than 1,749 flight hours in 30 exercise scenarios in which approximately 295 people were saved.

Despite the massive size of the exercise, the planners ensured that the budget was as efficient as possible, staying within $1.75 million, said Brett Hartnett, Angel Thunder exercise director and technical manager.