NATAL AIR BASE, Brazil – Air National Guard airmen are taking part in Cruzeiro do Sul Exercise, a Brazilian air exercise that officially kicked off Nov. 4 and is scheduled to be completed Nov. 15.
The Brazilian air force-led exercise combines coalition aerial refueling and combat search and rescue structured training, with a focus on interoperability, officials said.
More than 130 U.S. airmen are participating alongside participants from Canada and several South American countries, totaling more than 2,000 military members.
More than 90 aircraft are taking part in the exercise.
A KC-135 Stratotanker from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 161st Air Refueling Wing and six F-16 Fighting Falcons from the District of Columbia Air National Guard’s 113th Wing are taking part in the exercise. The participants are simulating a wide variety of events in a fictitious peacekeeping response scenario.
"I am most excited about doing operations in a unique environment," said Air Force Col. Keith Colmer, 12th Air Force’s Air National Guard advisor. "We are very familiar with our operations in our area of responsibility, but being in Brazil, there are obvious and unique differences with the culture, language skills, and the local environment.
“The second big point,” Colmer continued, “is being able to build friendships that will allow us to do our job at 12th Air Force better for years to come, because really, this whole operation is about building relationships.”
The exercise’s primary aim is to prepare the attending air forces to work together in the future, whether during natural disasters, evacuating civilians or refueling aircraft, the colonel said.
"The biggest challenge is being sympathetic to the pacing of the host nation as they work through the challenge of hosting more than 2,000 of their own pilots and airmen, as well as another 700 deployed airmen from several other countries," Colmer said. "There is a refined skill in that, and we practice that a lot with all the different exercises we host in the U.S."