Kentucky Guardsmen Exchange Best Practices with Ecuadorian Aviation

By Staff Sgt. Alexa Becerra, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment 

Kentucky Army National Guard Soldiers participated in an engagement focused on aviation capabilities in Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador, August 25-30, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Alexa Becerra)

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 disaster.

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.”

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