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PACAF exercise hosts Mexican observers

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Mexican Air Force observers are seeing first hand how U.S. and coalition forces work together during Cooperative Cope Thunder to aid in their decision to become future exercise participants.

As part of his cooperative engagement strategy General Paul V. Hester, Pacific Air Forces commander, invited the Mexican Air Force officers and others to participate in the exercise to gain a better understanding of the inner workings of PACAF's largest joint and combined air combat exercise.

The point of extending the invitation was to see if the Mexican Air Force would be interested in joining other partner nations by incorporating their aircraft, personnel and air combat tactics into future exercises—thus promoting better training, closer relations and a demonstrated commitment to peace and stability in the region.

"The Mexican Air Force observer team wants to see if this would be of mutual benefit to current participants and to their Air Force," said Lt. Col. John Vail, Air Force section chief at the Office of Defense Coordination at the U.S. embassy in Mexico City. "Earlier this year they attended the planning conference and now their seeing how it runs first hand. So they've been involved from start to finish."

While here, the observers have spent their time attending briefings and studying the interactions between the participants.

"My main interest is to see how pilots, maintainers and support staff do business here at Cope Thunder," said Lt. Col. Jose Antonio Sierra Amador, 401st Fighter Squadron commander, an F-5 squadron located at Santa Lucia's 'Air Base Number One' in Mexico City. "In addition to learning about the tactics and procedures used during the exercise, we are really interested in understanding what it is we will need to do logistically and operationally in order to participate in the exercise, " he said.

After spending one week here, Col. Amador says they are interested in possibly adding their F-5 and C-130 aircraft to the exercise line up.

"I noticed there are many operations going on at the same time here and I think being here would benefit us," Colonel Amador said.

Not only did they examine the operational aspect of the exercise, but they also noticed the emphasis on safety.

"The safety procedures are very impressive," said Capt. Gerardo de Jesus Navarro Mannon, 401st FS chief of maintenance. "Safety is very important to the Mexican Air Force and we follow similar guidelines as they do here."

The Mexican Air Force observer team will be here through the duration of the exercise. Other international observers include Russia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, South Korea and Sri Lanka.