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Jan
17
2017

Glory Over The Horizon - Colombian Army Aviation

Posted 5 years 207 days ago ago by Admin



It’s Sunrise, but the sun is not seen; it only feels like the day is starting. The jungle, humidity, and mosquitos do their work, and walking is almost impossible. The clouds and the bad weather are all around, while the rain hampers visibility. Gunfire is heard in heavy fighting between the Army and the guerrillas they battle. The result is wounded soldiers. Next, helicopters are heard. It seems like we are revisiting the Vietnam War, but instead we are in the Western Hemisphere, covering armed conflict in Colombia.

   

The combat search and rescue (C-SAR) team of the Ejército Nacional de Colombia (Colombian National Army) is called into the war zone to airlift soldiers that have been wounded while confronting insurgent groups. Flying this particular mission is an UH-60 Black Hawk escorted by a Huey II. The soldiers on the ground say that those flying to the rescue are “God’s crew on Earth.”


The Huey II takes a “hunter position” to provide cover for the UH-60 as it descends into the extraction zone. As the UH-60 lowers, enemy fire commences and its pilot-in-command is injured. The helicopter’s rescue mission now turns into an emergency mission to save its own pilot’s life.


The UH-60’s second-in-command takes control of the helicopter as paramedics give first aid to the pilot. They fly out of the combat zone, escorted by the Huey, which flies between 500 feet to 1,000 feet, waiting for the UH-60 to get out of the emergency situation. The pilot is flown to the nearest hospital in the region of Florencia, and later another C-SAR team goes back to the extraction zone to finish the mission.


Air Assault Aviation Division

   

These are the daily challenges faced by the División de Aviación Asalto Aéreo del Ejército Nacional de Colombia (Air Assault Aviation Division of the Colombian National Army). Serving under the motto “Glory Over the Horizon,” its men and women attempt to keep order in their country, which has been suffering through conflict since the 1960s when Marxists-Communist groups took up arms, financing their operations from kidnapping ransoms, cattle theft, and drug trafficking.

   

Aviation in the Colombian National Army has gone through different phases, but a key point was reached over 20 years ago when Army aviators, who entered military service as soldiers, became pilots and mechanics to birth the Air Assault Aviation Division. Major General Javier Enrique Rey-Navas was influential in shaping this division, as was U.S. Army doctrine.


The Colombian Army has Mi-17s, UH-60 Black Hawks, and Huey IIs as their main rotorcraft. They work in concert with fixed-wings to transport supplies and soldiers, while also providing humanitarian help and SAR services. The Army consists of eight divisions, and each battalion of mobility and maneuver supports one of these divisions. The ongoing conflict has led them to be one of the best prepared armies in the world for flying C-SAR missions with night vision goggles. They have conducted more than 13,500 medevac missions.


Aviation Brigade 33

   

Lieutenant Colonel Edilberto Cortés-Moncada, a UH-60 Black Hawk instructor pilot, is the leader of Brigade 33, which is formed by nine tactical units, including eight battalions of mobility and maneuver and one special operations battalion. Combat search and rescue is within the primary responsibilities of the special ops battalion, as is the transportation of special ops troops, and UAV missions.

   

The primary efforts of Colombia’s C-SAR is to serve their fellow combatants. However, when their expertise is not needed for a downed aircraft, they also provide humanitarian help to the general population.


Battalion 6 Mobility and Maneuver

   

Battalion 6 Mobility and Maneuver supports the Army’s 6th Division as well as the Fuerza de Tarea Conjunta Omega (Joint Task Force Omega) created as part of the Plan Patriota (Patriot Plan) to reduce the forces of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). This battalion is formed by pilots and flight engineers for the Mi-17, and crews and specialists for the UH-60 and UH-1N. Their primary geographical responsibility covers almost 40 percent Colombia’s territory, including the areas of Meta, Caquetá, Guaviare, Putumayo, and Amazonas.

   

Daily operations in the battalion include a normal military schedule of physical training, aeronautical English classes, updates on current weather conditions, and constant training in operational safety. Operations are managed according to the 6th Division’s flight needs, with detailed briefings before each mission. Their goal: to safely complete tasks and improve the quality of service and support of other Army units.


Lieutenant Colonel Alex Tarazona-Zambrano, UH-60 Black Hawk instructor pilot, is the commander of Battalion 6. He says aviation has given a strategic advantage to the Army to win back terrain from insurgent groups, thus he sees air mobility bringing peace to his beautiful nation. This mobilization capability has helped stop the advance of guerillas, as each battalion of mobility and maneuver has increased the Army’s force and response capacity.


Glory Over the Horizon

   

Colombia has seen war for many weary years. Finally, peace agreements are progressing between the government and armed groups, but the fight continues against drug smugglers and those who disagree with democratic institutions. Commanders Cortés and Tarazona are men of honor who care for their soldiers as if they are family. They demonstrate that within the aircraft of the Colombian National Army are professionals with admirable qualities. To those they support on the ground, the Army’s aircraft—and those who give them flight—appear as glory coming over the horizon.


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