First in a series about the most recent iteration of Operation Southern Partner (OSP).
OSP is a Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern)-led event that was aimed at providing intensive, periodic subject matter exchanges with partner nation Air Forces in the US Southern Command area of focus. It was held earlier this month with 7 nations.
In a USNI Blog exclusive, I recently had the opportunity to discuss OSP with LT. Col. Al Struthers, 12th AF Theater Security Cooperation Division Chief, Maj. Kenny Sierra, OSP Caribbean deputy mission commander, and Capt. Nathan Broshear, Twelfth Air Force Public Affairs.
According to LTC. Struthers, one of the lessons learned was the type of training the host nation’s forces received during this cooperative exchange mission. AFSOUTH asked the host nations for their training requirements and upon receiving their responses, OSP ”gave them the training they wanted.”
The calendar was another lesson learned according to Major Sierra who commented, “We wished we had more time to do more exchanges.” Major Sierra’s comments were echoed by Captain Broshear, the Grenada team leader, who noted that there is “a big appetite for this type of exchanges.”
I can see why there is an appetite for these type of cooperative exchanges. Over 8500 personnel from the 7-host nations benefitted from the exchange program. Some the exchange missions performed during OSP included:
Urban tactics, small team movements in built-up areas, building entry and clearing and dynamic target acquisition with the Jamaican Defence Force;
fire protection, maintenance, electrical, safety, security forces and para-rescue exchanges with the Belize Defence Force;
search and rescue efforts with the Royal St. Lucia police force’s special service unit; island nation;
international medical education and training with the Guyana Defence Force;
35 community relations projects to include performances by the Air Force Academy Band “Blue Steel” at venues such as the Father Mallaghan’s Home for Boys in the town of Victoria, Grenada.
According to photographer Sagar Pathak of Horizontal Rain “the Airman had a chance to bond with the boys over the international language of music.” Music diplomacy at its best in my view.
When asked what what theywould remember most about OSP, Major Sierra said, ”I can tell you how much I enjoyed this tdy. I was able to see the difference. The gratitude on their faces.”
“That’s tough. 20 different things I’ll remember,” was the initial reaction from LTC Struthers when I asked him the same question. Moreover, according to Struthers, the host nations were “excited about us being down there. They loved to have us down there longer. They want us back. The hardwork paid off.”
For Captain Broshear, the exchange of the first sargeants on Grenada was a memorable moment. According to Broshear, it was “the first time we did it.” Moreover, it gave the USAF an opportunity to demonstrate the professionalism of their
NCOs and according to Broshear such exchanges “can help these nations lay out institutionalized training programs.”
To be continued…