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18 nations gather for Conference of the American Air Chiefs

by Capt. Nathan D. Broshear
12th Air Force Public Affairs

7/22/2008 - SAN ANTONIO (AFPN) -- Air chiefs and representatives from 18 Western Hemisphere nations arrived July 19 for the 48th annual Conference of the American Air Chiefs in San Antonio.

Lt. Gen. Norman R. Seip, the 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) commander led the AFSOUTH delegation during the week-long event.

Attendees at this year's CONJEFAMER include Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, the Inter-American Air Forces Academy and the Inter American Defense Board, as well as, representatives from the United States.

Conference attendees met on the San Antonio Riverwalk to confer over recommendations and programs proposed during Conference of the American Air Chiefs, or CONJEFAMER, committee meetings held earlier this year.

"The opportunity to come together and plan for the future and exchange ideas on developing Airmen and airpower is the main focus of our meetings -- but even more important is the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the issues facing our partners and friends in the Americas," said Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, the Air Force vice chief of staff and the acting CONJEFAMER president.

CONJEFAMER is a capstone event for the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces, or SICOFAA, based at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. SICOFAA started in 1961 as a forum for senior leaders from air forces in the Western Hemisphere to discuss military issues and aviation topics. Today, the organization has become more formalized, but has kept to its voluntary and apolitical status while striving to foster friendship and cooperation among American air forces through the interchange of experiences, training and education. SICOFAA also develops procedures and plans to facilitate combined actions between air components of member nations.

"Organizations focused on the professional airman and the interests of air forces of each nation are vital in ensuring governments understand what airpower can provide to their citizenry," General Seip said. "SICOFAA ensures issues that apply to air forces across the Americas are discussed in an atmosphere of trust and understanding -- there's much we can learn from one another."

During the conference, General Seip is scheduled to present two AFSOUTH initiatives: Operation Southern Partner and a plan to implement a mobile training team dedicated to teaching Noncommissioned Officer Academy courses throughout the AFSOUTH area of responsibility.

"Operation Southern Partner is a program to bring subject matter experts from the United States to Central and South America for focused, one-week technical and professional exchanges with partner Air Forces," General Seip said. "The visits will be regionally grouped to allow maximum participation and offer a wide range of topics of interest to Airmen from the hosting countries."

"CONJEFAMER is the perfect venue for Air Force decision makers from our partner nations to discuss ways to increase our interoperability, training opportunities, safety and security efforts," added the AFSOUTH commander. "Every recommendation from committee is voted on to ensure all parties have an equal vote in issues affecting member nation Air Forces."

Some of the topics to be discussed during CONJEFAMER include ways for member nations to cooperate during natural disaster response, human resources management, information security and initiatives to share information on aircraft mishaps with the goal of achieving safer flight operations. One of the most anticipated agenda items is a major disaster relief exercise called "Cooperación 1" to be held in Chile in 2010.

"In addition to voting on various proposals, members will also approve an exercise schedule for combined events, awards and appoint committees to study issues," General Seip said. "This conference, and the subsequent events approved by members, will continue to strengthen the bonds of friendship for American air forces and facilitate further commitments to peace and stability in this region between Airmen."

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