USAF air advisors pin on new tradition for Fuerza Aérea Ecuatoriana

  • Published
  • By Capt. Kaitlin A. Morones and Tech. Sgt. James S. Garcia Arvelo
  • 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron

Since the unit’s inception over seven years ago, the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron has completed military advisory training in Ecuador for the first time this summer. Against all odds with a global pandemic raging at full force, the 571st MSAS was able to bring their tailored curriculum to the Fuerza Aérea Ecuatoriana, or FAE.

With their maintenance and logistics expert instructors and air advisors, Tech. Sgt. Jacob Haines, Tech. Sgt. Luis Ochoa, Tech. Sgt. James Garcia Arvelo, and Capt. Kaitlin Morones, the 571st MSAS successfully executed their first-ever Mobile Training Team at Cotopaxi Air Force Base in Latacunga, Ecuador. Upon arrival of the seven-person MTT, the commander of the FAE’s 11th Transportation Wing, Lt. Col. Jorge Alcázar Sevilla, greeted all with a formal inauguration highlighting the significance of the event and expressing his gratitude for the realization of this selective course. 

At the onset of the month-long course that began in July, pandemic-related safety precautions were implemented requiring air advisors and FAE students alike to wear masks, perform daily temperature checks, sanitize the classroom, and exercise social distancing to ensure everyone remained healthy.

As courses progressed, it was quickly evident how receptive the students were to their respective subject matter. Additionally, the instructors were quick to collaborate on a unique and innovative opportunity to combine the logistics and maintenance classes for a joint exercise to test all the practices and procedures learned. This capstone enabled the class to demonstrate all they had learned in the past three weeks by displaying real-world processes and how to work through them.

One of the logistics course students who also happens to be the commander of the FAE’s 112th Logistics Group in Cotopaxi, Lt. Col. Nel Vaca Flores, was especially impressed by all the events throughout the course. 

He noted, “It has been interesting learning how the USAF operates and we have been able to learn from both the logisticians and the aircraft maintainers. I hope this doesn’t stop with only this mission. We are looking forward to regaining and building a fruitful relationship between the USAF and the FAE.

“I am impressed with the USAF’s professionalism and being able to come to Ecuador during this pandemic,” he continued. “The professionalism of this team has shown us how [they] operate and has given us a model to emulate.  I hope this isn’t the last time we work together.  I look forward to continuing our training together and furthering a lasting relationship.”

Additionally, the team took the opportunity to visit a nearby elementary school.  Ochoa coordinated the community relations event and brought school supplies including pencils and notebooks as well as soccer balls for the students. The head director, Rosario Cruz, said she was especially grateful to receive “the blessings for [her] students.”  Even though the students were on break in between school terms, she expressed how excited they will be to see all their new supplies and soccer balls upon return. 

The MTT ended on a high note, culminating with a formal graduation for the students. The ceremony was monumental for everyone involved.  The students were presented not only a graduation certificate, but a pin with the 571st MSAS patch embedded within it. This pin can now be worn for the entirety of their careers. The pride shown by the students receiving this pin was felt throughout the hangar, validating their hard work and perseverance throughout the course.

The 571st MSAS continues to be pioneers in the air advisory industry. The young unit not only managed to combat COVID-19 and its restrictive travel requirements, this MTT managed to pave the way for future missions and to establish a new normal for conducting advisory missions in a COVID-19 environment. The gratitude shown by the FAE, the schoolhouse, and even the lodging staff proved how vital this mission was to reestablish relationships in Ecuador.  As FAE Maj. Alonso Ortega, commander of the 1121st Heavy Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and C-130 Hercules Aircraft Systems Course class student, so boldly stated, “This course helped me become more intimately familiar with the technical workings of the C-130 aircraft. The knowledge I have gained from the course has made me a better maintenance professional, especially in making asserted technical decisions in my position as a maintenance squadron commander. I was afforded time away from my routine duties to learn and grow alongside my unit members … and most importantly to build valuable relationships with all members of the MTT.”

Despite all the misgivings of conducting such a mission during unprecedented times, the intense preparation by the leaders of this mission, Master Sgt. Caleb Dysert, Master Sgt. Freddy Muñoz, and especially by Maj. Noelle DeRuyter finalizing her air advisor career with the 571st MSAS in this mission, and the superb professionalism, performance, and dedication to duty of the team, assured a highly successful mission. The 571st MSAS looks forward to future engagements with the FAE, their continued relationship with Ecuador, and to keep doing what they do best: build partnerships.