The System of Cooperation of American Air Forces, which includes the U.S. Air Force, has cancelled a training exercise set to start this week due to ongoing humanitarian operations resulting from hurricanes in the Caribbean and the devastating earthquakes in Mexico.
The Air Force was scheduled to send two C-130 Hercules from the Texas and California Air National Guard to participate in the organization's Cooperacion V exercise in Chile, focusing on combat search and rescue and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, Maj Joost Verduyn, spokesman for Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) recently told Military.com.
The 20-member international coalition began hosting exercises in 2010 after the Chilean earthquake. The organization has been around in some form since the 1960s, according to the Air Force.
The alliance also includes Venezuela, which in recent weeks has been embroiled in a war of words between with U.S. President Donald Trump. This week, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro blared he will direct the army to take up arms "to defend every inch" of Venezuela's territory.
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"We have been shamelessly threatened by the most criminal empire that ever existed and we have the obligation to prepare ourselves to guarantee peace," Maduro said before Venezuela's army during a military exercise. "We need to have rifles, missiles and well-oiled tanks at the ready....to defend every inch of the territory if needs be," he said, as reported by Newsweek.
Additionally, Venezuela has a few dozen aircraft, including F-16 fighter jets.
Maduro's comments came days after the Trump administration imposed an additional travel ban, this time to include Venezuelan officials. The U.S. has also handed down sanctions, and revoked lending to Venezuela's government and its state oil company.
When asked if the ban has inflicted any training hardships with Southern Command partners and the Air Force, Verduyn said there has been "no effect." Separately, when asked if the Air Force works directly with Venezuela, Verduyn said, "We do not conduct any training with Venezuela."
The Trump administration has not backed away from their stance on a U.S. "military option" in dealing with Venezuela's economic crisis, which has given a lifeline to protesters of Maduro's government. Since April, more than 150 people have died in clashes in the streets. In the meantime, citizens are clinging to any food or medical support they can find.
In the midst of ongoing controversy, the Air Force will maintain its commitment to the SOUTHCOM region.
Air Force "aircraft and aircrews ... play an important role in support of SOUTHCOM and regional security cooperation, mainly in support of detection and monitoring operations aimed at disrupting illicit trafficking over international waters, but also playing crucial roles in the Defense Department's support of relief efforts," Verduyn said in an email.
The service this year has participated in a handful of exercises, to include Angel Thunder at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, where Peru brought its Bell 212 helicopters to the CSAR-focused training in May.
In July, the Air Force flew out its F-16 Fighting Falcon demo team from Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, in addition to two Vipers from the South Carolina Air National Guard; one KC-10 Extender from Travis Air Force Base, California; and one KC-135 Stratotanker from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, to Columbia for the Feria Aeronautica Internacional air show. The Colombian air force also got a taste of a B-52 long-range bomber flyover during the show, Verduyn said.
Lastly, the Brazilian and Columbian air forces participated in Air Mobility Command's Exercise Mobility Guardian this summer in Washington. They each brought a Casa 295 twin-turboprop tactical military transport aircraft, the major said.
"These are only the large exercises and don't include the numerous engagements with partner nations are interpersonal in nature, consisting mainly of small-sized, bilateral training and expertise exchanges," Verduyn said.