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Total force Airmen participate in Chilean exercise

by Capt. Sarah Schwennesen
12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern Public Affairs


10/18/2007 - IQUIQUE, CHILE (AFPN) -- Active duty, Reserve and National Guard Airmen from across the Southwest came together Oct 15 to 19 in Iquique, Chile, to participate in WILLKA, Chile's first exercise with their new F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-5 Freedom Fighters and the U.S. Air Force.

Approximately 130 Airmen will train with their Chilean counterparts during the exercise that will include the F-16 and the KC-135 Stratotanker.

This exercise is designed to familiarize the Chilean and U.S. Air Force personnel in training together. The pilots are training in various air-to-air techniques and in air refueling, while operations, maintenance and logistics support members are conducting training in their respective fields.

Reservists from the 301st Fighter Wing at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Ft. Worth, Texas, brought six F-16s and about 80 unit members to the exercise.

"The exercise is very valuable in strengthening the relationship between our air forces," said Col. Kevin Pottinger, the 301st Fighter Wing commander. "When some of our equipment and personnel were delayed coming down here initially, the Chileans stepped up with great support and that broke the ice, starting the exercise off on great footing."

The refueling aspect of the exercise was conducted by Airmen from the 161st Air Refueling Wing at Phoenix Air National Guard Base in Arizona. Maj. John Dickman, the mission commander, felt the exercise provided unique training.

"Many of the combined operations have been going on for so long that they're familiar, but operating in airspace with so many different things going on is very valuable," he said. "Flying with a Reserve unit, Chilean F-16s and F-5s presents an opportunity for our aircrews to gain more experience."

The pilots are conducting air combat training with similar and dissimilar aircraft. They all use standard U.S. Air Force terminology during flights, "so the language was not a problem and radio communication went smoothly," said Maj. Tim Sehnem, an F-16 pilot from the 301st FW.

"This is our first combined exercise with Chile and we have been learning a lot and enjoying flying with the Chilean F-16s and their F-5s. The dissimilar training is useful because the F-5s are small and nimble, good to fly against," the major said.

Col. Tommy Williams, the 301st Operations Group commander, was asked by a Chilean about his experiences as a pilot in a "world class" Air Force flying with the Chilean Air Force.

"The Chileans are world class as well, they have great airplanes and their pilots are very skilled," Colonel Williams said. "It's a pleasure training here."

Alejandro Goñi, the Minister of Defense of Chile, observed WILLKA and flew in Chile's newest acquisition, the F-16, on the second day of the exercise. The minister, Chile's air force chief of staff, General Ricardo Ortega, and combatant commander, Lt. Gen. Jorge Rojas, also reviewed the training. 

"This opportunity is unique for us to integrate with the U.S. Air Force and improve our capabilities," General Rojas said,. "It's a change from our normal exercises and the exchanges between the different cultures and operational perspectives are very informative."

WILLKA underscores the importance of language and professional military education, said Chief Master Sgt. Jack Mills, the 301st FW command chief.

"We have Spanish speakers in the unit and they're enjoying speaking Spanish. This exercise highlights the fact that you're going to have to have some language skills, this will be your future," the chief said.



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