South American Air Forces bridge gap through AFSOUTH liaison program

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brittany Dowdle
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
A reality for members of the armed forces is relocation, be it another state or another country. For South American Air Forces one of their coveted positions includes living thousands of miles from their country, fellow military members, family and friends to work with the USAF as a liaison officer. 
The liaison officers assigned to 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) represent their respective Air Force in the Air Component of the U.S. Southern Command. They are the main link for 12th Air Force (AFSOUTH) and their respective Air Forces in their countries. Part of their job is to help build the partnerships between these two organizations so they can work together.

At 12th Air Force (AFSOUTH) there are three LNOs. The representatives are from the Brazilian, Chilean, and Peruvian Air Forces. In the near future, an LNO from the Colombian Air Force will join the team.

"We are coordinators and support for everything between our Air Forces," said Col. Cristian Eguia, 12th Air Force (AFSOUTH) Chilean Air Force LNO. "We represent our Air Force here to coordinate logistics between our two countries."

In the past, AFSOUTH has partnered with the Chilean Air Force to support Feria Internacional del Aire y del Espacio (International Air and Space Exposition) in Santiago, Chile, which is the largest combined air and trade show in South America. Our Air Forces have also partnered for SALITRE, a coalition air exercise, including search and rescue, aerial refueling and combined air operations center training opportunities focused on interoperability. Part of an LNO's job is to help facilitate for exercises, operations, or anything that is of mutual benefit between our Air Force and theirs.

"We help provide joint coordination for operations," said Col. Marcos Huaman, 12th Air Force (AFSOUTH) Peruvian Air Force LNO. "This year SOUTHCOM had the New Horizons exercise in Peru. We coordinated with our Air Force to help the partnership with 12th Air Force (AFSOUTH) in this exercise to make things work smoother."

AFSOUTH has partnered with the Brazilian Air Force for such exercises such as CRUZEX, a multinational air exercise that is focused on interoperability in operations planning, aerial refueling, and air-to-air operations. These exercises require multiple levels of planning which are simplified because of the employment of the LNOs at AFSOUTH.

"I like being in the U.S. and learning the language," said Col. Paulo Vasconcellos, 12th Air Force (AFSOUTH) Brazilian Air Force LNO. "It's a good opportunity to learn. I like being in touch with one of the best Air Forces in the world, where we can learn the processes and how you do business here. Then I can bring that knowledge back to Brazil so we can increase our productivity."

Just like with any job, there are challenges. For the LNOs there are many challenges being in another country, learning a new language, and working a new job.

"We have different cultures and different backgrounds so sometimes there are misunderstandings," Vasconcellos said. "The challenge is to adjust the tone of communications to be fully understood between the partners."

When someone from another country is given orders to be an LNO in the U.S., they bring their families with them for a one to two year assignment.

The first LNO was stationed at 12th Air Force (AFSOUTH) in 2004. The program directly focuses on the U.S. commitment to work with regional partners in ways that strengthen friendships, bolster partner nation capacity, expand cooperation between Airmen, and enhance regional security.