FRANKFORT, Ky. - The Kentucky National Guard hosted a team of aviators and maintainers from the Republic of Ecuador Army Air Group at the Army Aviation Support Facility at Boone National Guard Center here last month as part of the National Guard State Partnership Program.
The group consisted of six pilots, two maintenance and logistics personnel and one Ecuadorian civilian translator. They were accompanied by Air Force Lt. Col. Peter Jacob from the U.S. Military Group, Ecuador.
The Ecuadorian visitors were given an in-depth look at the Kentucky National Guard’s aviation operations and maintenance facility, hosted by Army Capt. Gabriel Spicer and his team from the AASF. They received briefings and hands on demonstrations of Kentucky’s mission planning, safety program, policies, procedures, preoperational post operation flight activities.
"We wanted to know about the organization of the Kentucky National Guard and how they operate Black Hawks," said Maj. Jose Luis Vasco, Ecuador Army Air Group 45 pilot.
The Ecuadorian Army is in the process of selecting a new medium-lift helicopter to replace their aging fleet of AS332 Super Puma helicopters. The Black Hawk is one option being considered.
The Ecuadorian Army Air Group will use the knowledge gained from this visit to develop their own policies and procedures for improved aviation operations tracking, mission planning, maintenance and logistics operations and a robust safety program.
The visit also laid the foundation for an ongoing, professional relationship with the Kentucky National Guard. This relationship will facilitate the continued sharing of information and exchange of ideas long after the visit is over.
"This trip has fulfilled our expectations," Vasco said.
The original SPP coordinator for Kentucky, retired Col. Phil Miller, talked about why Kentucky and Ecuador are partners and why their relationship is strong.
"We still continue to engage our partnership with Ecuador because we speak a common language and that is to provide a service to our nation, service to the people we serve and being technically and tactically proficient at what we do," Miller said.
The helicopter aviation program plays a key role in providing essential military support and services to the people of Ecuador. It is Ecuador’s first responder for medical evacuations and supports humanitarian assistance, peace keeping operations, disaster response and counter-narcotics operations. Army aviation is one of several key areas of emphasis for the Kentucky and Ecuador partnership.
Other exchange events focus on tactical vehicle maintenance, military law, C-130 cargo aircraft operations and maintenance, officer and enlisted professional development, and counter-drug programs. The State Partnership Program has seven exchange events planned for fiscal year 2012 at various locations throughout Kentucky and in Ecuador.
The tour this time concluded with an orientation flight in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter.
In addition to visiting the AASF, the Ecuadorian aviation visitors were given opportunities to experience the culture and hospitality of the Commonwealth with a visit to a distillery here. The trip also included an informative visit to the Patton Museum and a tour of Fort Knox, Ky.
The Kentucky National Guard State Partnership began in 1996, and continues to be a dynamic, beneficial relationship for both Ecuador and Kentucky.