DGAEPM officers part of disaster relief simulation in Argentina

The Canadian contingent for Exercise COOPERACIÓN VI included from left to right: LCol Benoit Bisson, Capt Gris Gutierrez and Maj Cristy Montoya from DGAEPM; Maj Audrey Morales from 4 Wing Cold Lake and Capt David Henriquez from DG Air Readiness. ~ Contingent canadien de l’exercice COOPERACIÓN VI à partir de la gauche: Lcol Benoit Bisson, Capt Gris Gutierrez et Maj Cristy Montoya de la DGGPEA; Maj Audrey Morales de la 4e Escadre Cold Lake et Capt David Henriquez de la DG Disp Op Air

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Three DGAEPM members participated in Exercise COOPERACIÓN VI, a multinational disaster relief exercise held last month in Mendoza, Argentina.

The event takes place every year under the auspices of the Sistema de Cooperación entre las Fuerzas Aéreas Americanas (System of Cooperation Among the Air Forces of the Americas) – known as SICOFAA. This organization is aimed at enhancing interoperability among air forces of the Americas, promoting mutual support and facilitating the exchange of experiences and expertise with respect to air security. The exercise is held in the Spanish language and includes 120 people from 12 countries.

LCol Benoit Bisson, the Senior Logistician in the Director Air Procurement (DAP) organization, led the DGAEPM participants. Although not fluent in Spanish, LCol Bisson was with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a mission with predominantly Spanish-speaking participants, and so became familiar with the language. “My contribution to COOPERACIÓN VI was largely in the area of protocol, which is very important when dealing with the Latin American militaries,” he says. “I liaised with the SICOFAA officials.”

He explains that COOPERACIÓN VI was a tabletop exercise designed to prepare for next year’s live exercise to be held in Colombia. The first week was preparation and briefings. The second week was the actual exercise during which participants had to plan the relief effort for a virtual earthquake, followed by a tsunami and gas pipeline fire. Exercises such as COOPERACIÓN VI ensure that when a real disaster strikes, militaries participating in the relief effort will be better prepared to work together.

The simulation used the Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) model for disaster relief and employed a detailed software program that LCol Bisson describes as “very realistic”.

LCol Bisson says that this year’s simulation will make the execution of next year’s live exercise a lot smoother. “For example, the simulation used a Hercules aircraft, but not the specific J model that will actually be used next year. The load for the J is different, so we were able to incorporate that and account for it in the software.”

Maj Cristy Montoya is the senior MAT ACQ officer in DAP. Her assignment during COOPERACIÓN VI was with the air terminal cell dealing with cargo requests. She was one of the few women involved in the exercise. “South American military culture is very male-centric, so it was interesting to see how we would interact with each other and an opportunity to show them how women can participate. Maybe because we were Canadians, they were fine with us.”

As well as providing translation for LCol Bisson and others, Capt Gris Gutierrez, an aviation systems EO with DGAEPM(TA&S), was part of the lessons learned cell. “We monitored what the other cells were doing with the aim of analyzing their activities and correcting any mistakes or miscalculations. We promoted the idea of a morning meeting with representatives from each of the cells to coordinate plans for the day.”

In an interview with local media, Brigadier Alejandro Maroni, director of COOPERACIÓN VI, pointed out that air is the fastest and sometimes the only way to mount a response in the wake of a disaster. He said that no territory is exempt from suffering a potential catastrophe and the detailed preparation afforded by realistic simulations is key to ensuring the best possible outcome.

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