October 16, 2015 - 11:30 ( Brasília )

Air

Colombia Hosts First International Army Aviation Conference in South America


Versão Portugues

Robert Shaw

The Colombian National Army's Air Assault Division (DAVAA) held the first International Army Aviation Conference (CIAVEC 2015) in South America from September 22-24, meeting near Bogotá to share global experiences in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime over the past 20 years.

“This was a chance for our Air Assault Division to showcase the immense efforts and capacities of our special forces in the fight against illegal armed groups over the last two decades,” DAVAA Commander, Brigadier General Emiro José Barrios Jiménez, said in an interview with Diálogo .

And it was also a key opportunity for Army aviation commanders from more than 20 nations to share lessons they've learned in planning and executing military operations, including international peacekeeping missions and multinational efforts.

On the conference’s opening day, Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas recognized the strength and depth of his country’s Aviation Division and highlighted DAVAA’s contribution to the development and pursuit of peace nationwide. Then, on days two and three, Brig. Gen. Barrios spoke about the capacities of his division as attendees watched a variety of counter-narcotic and air-ground demonstrations at the Larandia and Tolemaida Military air bases, which are near Bogotá.

“Now, we see the fruits of our labors coming to bear with the peace process finally moving in the right direction, particularly as it concerns the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).”

DAVAA fights criminal groups

Armed Forces officials also showcased the evolution of the country’s military aviation over a 50-year span, which includes the beginning of the fight against international drug trafficking.

“The Army’s Air Assault Division has spearheaded the major attacks [against the country’s illegal armed groups] that have brought us so close to peace today and have also brought increased mobility, development, and humanitarian assistance to Colombia’s remotest areas,” Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said during his opening speech.

Since January 1, the DAVAA and the Special Counter-Narcotics Brigade have destroyed 157 drug laboratories and five crystallization factories that criminal organizations used to produce coca paste – the main ingredient used to make cocaine. They also eradicated more than 34,000 hectares of illicit crops.

“We work with the government to capture the top drug-trafficking kingpins each and every week that passes,” Brig. Gen. Barrios added. “We’ve developed our tactics around our high-speed air assault capacities and our ability to get in fast and take the enemy by surprise. Our troops have developed highly specialized capacities in air assault operations that require incredible levels of planning. To carry out these missions at night in complex environments like the Amazon jungle highlights our top notch professional abilities.”

Those abilities, Defense Minister Villegas said, are at the center of the country's future security plans. “I’m not able to imagine a post-conflict Colombia without a robust Military Aviation Division, which can rebuild territories and bring a stable and lasting peace to a new Colombia.”

Humanitarian and logistics support

Such rebuilding efforts frequently demand humanitarian aid and logistics support, which DAVAA's crews and aircraft have frequently provided during natural disasters. That includes transporting aid such as medical supplies, food, and water, to vulnerable communities in the country’s remote regions. In recent weeks, for example, the division used one of its aircraft to deliver more than five tons of aid, including food, clothes, and medicine, to Colombians affected by the Colombian-Venezuelan border dispute.

Additionally, between 2002 and 2015, Colombia’s Company of Search and Combat Rescue (C-SAR), part of the DAVAA, has carried out up to 1,300 search and rescue operations nationwide. Meanwhile, the Army’s 25th Battalion Company of Aeronautical Firefighters, also part of the DAVAA, has made its own contribution to rescue efforts in the country, battling nearly 50 wildfires in the departments of Boyacá, Cundinamarca, and Tolima. The unit uses Bambi Buckets to pour between 400 and 500 gallons of a mix of water and fire retardant chemicals to subdue blazes.

Building connections with regional and global partners

The DAVAA conference also provided a platform to develop fraternal relationships and cooperation on security and defense issues to face challenges from future threats.

On the conference’s final day, Brig. Gen. Barrios, who thanked the international delegations for participating in the event, said the CIAVEC should continue to strengthen the bonds between friends and to share experiences among like-minded armies.

“We hope that these specialized abilities on display at the conference will encourage international bodies like NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) to hire us for global peacekeeping and humanitarian missions,” he stated.

In addition to General Juan Pablo Rodriguez, Commanding General of the Colombian Armed Forces; and Lieutenant General Kevin Mangum, U.S. Deputy Commanding General/Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC); other senior authorities from Colombia's National Police and Army and their counterparts from Honduras, Guatemala, and the United Kingdom attended the conference.