ANTOFAGASTA, Chile -- After flying more than 50 sorties, participating in two community relations events, entertaining multiple media events and experiencing a visit from the President of Chile, U.S. Airmen participating in Chile's SALITRE 2014 exercise are returning home.
"The 149th Fighter Wing executed every sortie except for those that were not executed due to weather," said Col. Mike Torrealday, the reserve advisor to the 12th Air Force (AFSOUTH) commander and exercise co-director. "Maintenance turned all their missions every single day ... they performed an outstanding job."
This was the first time the U.S. participated in SALITRE since 2012, but continued engagement and interactions with the Chilean air force year-round with AFSOUTH and the Texas Air National Guard made entering into the exercise a smooth process.
"The Chilean air force personnel were very accommodating," said Maj. Darren Bemis, the Texas ANG's 149th Maintenance Squadron commander. "Everything we needed they brought to us, the support was outstanding and the interaction between maintenance crews brought friendship and respect for one another."
This wasn't the first visit to Chile by the Texas ANG this year. As state partners with the Chilean air force, Texas regularly works with their partners to the south.
"At FIDAE we communicated with the Chileans and here at SALITRE we've shared ideas, we've shared experiences and in these two weeks we did the execution in the air," said Lt. Col. Greg Pohoski, a 182nd Fighter Squadron pilot with the 149th FW. "With each trip we are building on our relations. We started with academics and ended with execution."
The purpose of the State Partnership Program is to conduct military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals, but it also leverages whole-of-society relationships and capabilities to facilitate broader interagency and corollary engagements spanning military, government, economic and social spheres.
In addition to working with the Chilean air force, Airmen were able to interact with counterparts from Brazil, Argentina andUruguay.
"The interaction between the Chilean air force fuels shop and the Texas ANG fuels shop helped us out greatly by exchanging knowledge and training," said Master Sgt. Samuel Metz, a 149th MG aircraft systems fuels technician. "I was able to train them on a piece equipment used to inspect external fuel tanks which they never used before. I showed them how to use it, so they can now inspect and certify other Chilean fuels specialists."
Also adding on to the Texas ANG presence was an Ohio ANG KC-135 Stratotanker flying out of Santiago providing essential aerial refueling capability.