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Air Advisor mission leaves lasting impression with the Guatemalan armed forces

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Dittmer, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron air advisor, leads the classroom portion of the aircrew survival course with the Guatemalan air force at Cobra Camp in the Army Mariscal Zavala Army Base, Guatemala. This seminar was a great opportunity to not only learn about potentially life-saving strategies in case of a mishap, but also build teamwork between the newly minted Guatemalan aeromedical evacuation technicians and the helicopter pilots. (Courtesy Photo)

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Dittmer, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron air advisor, leads the classroom portion of the aircrew survival course with the Guatemalan air force at Cobra Camp in the Army Mariscal Zavala Army Base, Guatemala. This seminar was a great opportunity to not only learn about potentially life-saving strategies in case of a mishap, but also build teamwork between the newly minted Guatemalan aeromedical evacuation technicians and the helicopter pilots. (Courtesy Photo)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) --

A team of 13 members from the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron completed training from Feb. 13 through April 11 with the Guatemalan air force at Aurora Air Base and Mariscal Zavala Army Base in Guatemala City.

This was the 571st MSAS’ longest engagement in Guatemala since it began training Latin American air forces in 2011.

The air advisor unit is attempting to transition to longer-duration mobile training team missions in order to focus on partner nation capacity, organizational support, regional stability and interoperability with the U.S. and other allies.

The focus of the Guatemala mission was to build partnership capacity in the areas of aircraft maintenance, aeromedical evacuation, network security and aircrew survival.

“In many ways, this was a record-breaking training mission,” said Master Sgt. Amanda Goins, 571st MSAS MTT team sergeant. “Not only was it one of the longest engagements, but we also trained the first Guatemalan air force aeromedical unit and conducted a joint network security course in the country.”

Tech. Sgt. Connor Olney, 571st MSAS aeromedical evacuation technician, led the ambitious assessment and training project to help standup the first Guatemalan air force aeromedical evacuation program.

“Working with key Guatemalan medical personnel to help develop operational direction to their new aeromedical evacuation program, while training the first round of flight medics, was very rewarding,” Olney said. “This program is imperative because it allows the partner nation to fly patients safely through their entire area of responsibility during military and humanitarian missions. Due to the landscape in the area, this drastically shortens response time and increases patient survival rating when compared to ground travel.”

The air advisors are experts in their respective career fields and are specially trained to instruct highly technical courses to an audience that speaks Spanish and with a diverse cultural background.

“Being culturally aware is key to claiming success in these types of missions,” said Staff Sgt. Antony Colon-Matos, 571st MSAS air advisor. “As an interpreter for this mission, it was important for me to work closely with Sergeant Olney and become familiar with complex medical terms and procedures, as well as do my own research to decipher acronyms and find the best way to present the information to the Guatemalan students.”

Delmis Herrarte, Guatemalan aeromedical evacuation technician, explained how this training provided them with the necessary tools to expand their capabilities and to better enable them for future operations.

“We are the first nurses (in the Guatemalan air force) who’ve received aeromedical evacuation training. It is a great opportunity for the Guatemalan air force to learn from the American air advisors,” Herrarte said. “I learned how altitude affects patients and how to work with the pilots to conduct safe patient movement and increase survival rates. This will be very useful in the future to help evacuate victims from natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions which are common in our country.”

“The goal of this MTT was to provide a more persistent presence in Guatemala in order to increase the partner nation’s capacity,” Goins said. “In these two months, we have successfully laid the groundwork for the Guatemalan air force to build a safer, smarter and more efficient force.”

The 571st MSAS is a language enabled squadron that assesses, advises and assists Latin American and Caribbean countries to enhance their airpower capabilities as part of the U.S. Air Force’s and Air Mobility Command’s enduring building partner capacity mission. Each successive engagement supports Guatemala’s foundation of freedom, stability and prosperity in the region, and contributes to the U.S. Southern Command’s joint intermediate military objectives.