Twelfth Air Force, also known as Air Forces Southern, hosted the South American air chiefs and senior enlisted leaders conference Nov. 5-7.
This year’s conference aimed to build cooperation as a strategy towards progress. The conference provided a venue for partner nations and the U.S. to build personal relationships between the air forces as a foundation for future endeavors while discussing capabilities and issues of each nation’s air force in space, cyberspace and transnational threats.
“This region is what we call our neighborhood; it’s close to our nation; it’s dear to our nation, and it’s central to the protection of our nation,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Andrew Croft, Twelfth Air Force commander. “It’s important that we have a close personal relationship with each of the nations in Central America, South America and the Caribbean for mutual understanding and protection in cooperation. We share common values and interests, and that might be used in the defense of our nation and their nations.”
Air chiefs or designated representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru attended the conference.
“The importance of this meeting is to make sure we are aligned, and that the nations know what we can offer them and how we can help them in the building of their air forces,” Croft said.
During the conference, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. David Thompson, Air Force Space Command vice commander, spoke to attendees and told the South American air forces that as they look to grow and expand their space capabilities, opportunities for us to cooperate together will continue to grow in the coming days, weeks, months and years.
This year’s conference included South American senior enlisted leaders for the first time. This was part of a U.S. Southern Command’s initiative to aid in developing the enlisted force of our partner nations.
The Air Forces Southern Command chief held a two-part enlisted development seminar with the South American senior enlisted leaders. The seminar focused on the relationship between senior enlisted and their commanding officer, as well as shared challenges and development within their air forces’ enlisted corps, which in the U.S. Air Force makes up about 80% of the force.
Many of the South American senior enlisted leaders expressed their plans to take the information they gained from the conference and share it with their air forces.
“This opportunity was amazing,” said Eratóstenes Armstrong Paulino de Souza, Brazilian Air Force suboficial. “In Brazil, we are going to create the brand-new position of chief master sergeant. I’m going to take back the information I’ve learned here to my colleagues in Brazil. This was a perfect environment to learn and share experiences with my South American and U.S. colleagues.”