By Taciana Moury/Diálogo June 29, 2017 Commanders of air forces from across the Americas met from June 5th to 10th in Natal, in the northeastern region of Brazil, to participate in the 57th Conference of Chiefs of the American Air Forces (CONJEFAMER, per its Spanish acronym). The meeting gathered representatives from 19 nations with the purpose of integrating American air forces and strengthening military cooperation. According to General Nivaldo Luiz Rossato, the commander of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, per its Portuguese acronym), the meeting allowed for a sharing of experiences, learning the operational capabilities of each air force, and strengthening friendship bonds. “This is a unique opportunity to forge prosperous relationships that will help us face our mutual difficulties,” Gen. Rossato stated during the opening ceremony. At the conference, General Jorge Robles Mella, the commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Air Force (FACh, per its Spanish acronym), said in an interview with Diálogo, that each edition of CONJEFAMER is important for studying the future challenges that all of the commanders will face together, from a shared perspective. “This conference makes integration and cooperation viable at times when our nations are going through difficult situations,” he said. Gen. Robles recalled the aid received by Chile in January 2017, and by Peru in March, during the natural disasters. “The way that member nations of the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces [SICOFAA, per its Spanish acronym] make their air and ground resources available to other nations in need is a true demonstration of the materialization of humanitarian aid that is discussed so much at these CONJEFAMER meetings,” he revealed. This is the fifth time that Brazil has hosted CONJEFAMER. The city of Natal was not chosen by accident, explains Colonel Gerson Cavalcanti de Oliveira, the section chief of International Cooperation Systems for the General Staff of the Brazilian Air Force: “The city holds a special meaning for FAB in having been the Springboard to Victory in World War II, since Natal is the closest city to Africa in the Americas,” he said. Col. Cavalcanti added that it was an honor for FAB to receive commanders of American air forces, mainly because of the relevance the event holds for future SICOFAA activities. “During this conference, bilateral and multinational agreements and exchanges, and operational and logistical capabilities are discussed, as well as improvements to combined air operations to provide support during natural disasters and access to operational courses that are available in the other air forces,” he noted. In this edition of CONJEFAMER, SICOFAA’s Master Plan and Strategic Plan were approved. The documents will guide the system’s direction and its operations. Participants met in plenary sessions and in bilateral meetings where future editions of the event were discussed as well as the operational exercises that need to be conducted to train on air support operations during natural disasters and the international agreements signed between the air forces. Cooperation Exercise 5 The next exercise in SICOFAA’s activities calendar is Cooperation V, to be held from September 26th to October 6th, 2017, in Puerto Mont, Chile. Features of the exercise were presented during the 57th CONJEFAMER meeting. According to Col. Cavalcanti, who is also the FAB’s liaison officer to SICOFAA, FAB will participate in the exercise using its own aircraft and personnel. Col. Cavalcanti noted the importance of training in combined air operations for delivering provisions, medicines, tents, vaccines, and other needed aid. “Each air force operates in a different way. These exercises force us to standardize the type of operation, and we are then able to further train our forces on the coordinated support, delivering urgent rescue resources to those who need them the most,” he explained. During the exercise, natural disaster scenarios such as floods, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes followed by tsunamis will be simulated. According to Gen. Robles, the objective is to put the entire humanitarian aid process into practice – from the initial request to the transfer of aid to aircraft operation. “The entire exercise is based on SICOFAA’s doctrine and its manual.” Gen. Robles also noted that in emergency situations, a basic rule of effective aid must be considered. “We always use the three Rs: recognizing the events, or rather, getting the maximum amount of information in order to request the proper aid; reacting according to the information and needs that have been identified, and recovering available resources in order to provide support in the affected regions,” he explained. Before the exercise, SICOFAA representatives will meet in Santiago, Chile in August for the Final Planning Conference for Cooperation V. “At that meeting, we will review the details for conducting the exercise,” Gen. Robles reported. This will be the second time that Chile hosts a cooperation exercise. The first one was in 2010. Gen. Robles said that after seven years, this is an opportunity to compare and check the consolidation of the planning doctrine issued at past CONJEFAMER meetings. The importance of integration For Col. Cavalcanti, the operational focus of SICOFAA’s activities helps in training the crews of the FAB squadrons involved. Col. Cavalcanti also noted what a privilege it was to be able to assist partner nations in situations where there was an extreme need for a rapid response. “Brazil carries on its tradition of being a fraternal nation concerned with the peace and well-being of those who clamor for rapid and effective support in situations of extreme need,” he said. Gen. Robles underscored the importance of SICOFAA in the operational evolution of the American air forces. “There have been 57 annual meetings in which we have set goals and objectives. When we study this history, we realize how much we have advanced. The work that all of the commanders have done over all this time has allowed us to continue opening up new horizons for SICOFAA, and it has kept us ever vigilant of its slogan: ‛United Allies,’” he stressed. Gen. Rossato saw that it was possible to strengthen the bonds among nations during the three days of the conference. “The friendly and fraternal relations that we establish during CONJEFAMER are carried over to the exercises and simulations in our activities calendar, affording us the opportunity to harmonize our doctrinal knowledge, maximizing the support that is provided when needed,” Gen. Rossato stated in his speech. In the closing ceremony, SICOFAA’s bell was awarded to Deputy Commander Luis Eduardo Ruiz Estribi, the deputy director of the National Air and Naval Service of Panama. Panama will host the next CONJEFAMER in 2018.