Air advisors strengthen Partner Nations capabilities

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Liliana Moreno
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Two Airmen from the 621st Air Mobility Advisory Group are making significant contributions in strengthening Air Mobility Command's mobility partnerships with allied nations.


Lt. Col. Angel Santiago assigned to the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron based out of Travis Air Force Base, California, and Master Sgt. James Hoskins assigned to the 818th MSAS based out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, are both advisors for MSAS, which has air advisors ranging across 34 different job specialties, enabling them to train, advise, and assist partner nations in developing air mobility capabilities in support of combatant commands.


Santiago believes the best part of being an air advisor is being provided the platform to enable the growth of partner nation air forces.


“As an air advisor, I work with other qualified personnel to assess the capabilities of our allies, advise them on the path to get to their desired end-state, and assist them on preferred avenues to get there,” he said. “Working with partner nation personnel and watching them take what expertise we provide to improve their capabilities is exceptionally rewarding.”


Santiago clarified that their job is not to shape other international air forces into the image of the U.S. Air Force.


“Instead, we take some of those best practices and lessons learned that can be applied to how our partners operate so they can move their program forward,” he said. “With every follow-on engagement, growth and hunger for more expertise continues.  Having the ability to link up with multiple air forces in Latin America to assist their desire to grow cannot be understated.” 


Santiago’s vision and leadership as an air advisor reshaped Colombian air force medical and airlift capabilities, directly resulting in the rescue and recovery of 254 flood victims. He was the first air advisor to fly with the regional security system in Barbados and validated air advisor ground training. In Ecuador, Santiago made history conducting the first operational assessment of the Ecuadorian air force’s C-130 aircraft fleet in over 4 years.


“As a C-130 Hercules pilot, I have always loved the tactical airlift mission and the impact a Herc crew can mission at a time,” Santiago said. “While I will always love that part of my career, I've learned that what an airlift crew accomplishes on a single mission pales in comparison to what an air advisor team accomplishes.” 


He explained that while an airlift sortie can move invaluable resources to support a particular mission, a single air advisor mission can revolutionize the capabilities of an entire partner nation air force.

“Make no mistake, both mission sets are important and needed,” Santiago said. “However, the level of impact air advisors make on a partner nation air force can have long-lasting national, regional, and global impacts.” 


Similarly, Hoskins deployed to Uganda and Niger as a fuel expert air advisor to establish quality control laboratories and instructed over 50 African partners on air mobility and fuel operations. Additionally, he developed a $90,000 African aviation capabilities enhancement program, utilizing a three-tiered training approach to standardize fuel processes. 


When asked, what is the best part of being an air advisor?, he said, “This is a tough question to answer because as an air advisor who gets to travel the continent of Africa and engage with so many wonderful people, it’s really hard to pinpoint what the best part is.”


“One great benefit of my job is the satisfaction I get from knowing that as a unit, we are helping to shape the direction of partner nation militaries and their air mobility enterprise for the future,” Hoskins said. “Many of our partners are able to take the knowledge and best practices that we exchange with them during our engagements and immediately implement changes in their own force. That is very rewarding!”


He feels fortunate to have the opportunity to build partnerships by establishing and cultivating relationships with militaries from all over the continent of Africa.


“These key relationships are vital to developing interoperability amongst our nation’s Air Forces,” he said.


“We also have the distinct opportunity as mobility advisors to build partner capacities by providing subject matter expertise in a vast array of specialties,” Hoskins said. “It is not an easy task to sync the efforts of 34 different job specialties and provide tailored curriculum to multiple African partners simultaneously. But our small unit continues to make it possible day after day, and that is something that I am extremely proud of, and it is an experience that I will continue to draw from long after my time in the MSAS is finished.”

Both Santiago and Hoskins were nominated by AMC for the 2018 Air Force International Affairs Excellence award for their contributions in building, sustaining, expanding, and guiding international relationships.


Col. Todd White, commander of the 621st AMAG, said the leadership at both air advising squadrons has done an excellent job readying their Airmen to meet the Secretary of Defense’s priority to strengthen alliances and attract new partners.


“The 818th and 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadrons are AMC’s deliberately-trained, language enabled air advisors supporting the Secretary of the Air Force International Affairs objectives in U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Southern Command,” White said. “It’s an honor to have the strategic impact of their work recognized by AMC.”