AFSOUTH strengthens space ties with partner nations

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By Jessica Casserly, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs / Published August 19, 2014

DAVIS-MONTHAN AFB, Ariz. (AFNS) --

Three officers from the Dominican Republic, Peruvian and Brazilian militaries partnered with active-duty and guard Airmen at Davis-Monthan for a rare opportunity to work collectively on the space component of PANAMAX 2014, Aug. 8-15.

For a third year, partner nation participants took part in the space element of PANAMAX, an annual U.S. Southern Command sponsored exercise, which focuses on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal. Though each partner nation participant brought varying levels of space-related experience to the exercise, the unique partnership allowed representatives of each country to broaden their understanding of the role of space programs within exercises and real-world missions.

Lt. Col. Trae York, the director of Space Forces, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern), led the space component of the exercise for the second consecutive year during PANAMAX 2014. He also said he knows how valuable the information collected through space programs can be when leaders are making mission-related decisions.

"I have to coordinate across all of the divisions within the (Air and Space Operations Center), all of the directorates within the (Air Force Forces) staff and then all of the components within (Multi-National Force South), as well as the staff at headquarters (during exercises like this)," York said. "So, I have relationships across all those boards."

During normal operations, York runs the Space Forces directorate at 12th Air Force single-handedly, but this exercise gave him the opportunity to train and exchange ideas with his partner nation counterparts. Many of them are just starting to operate within the space realm.

"The Brazilians have the beginnings of a space program," York said. "The Peruvian and Dominican Republic (militaries) do not have space programs within their air forces, right now. The Peruvians are looking to build one within the next few years."

While the partner nations had different levels of experience with space capabilities and programs, York said the knowledge and training they were exposed to during PANAMAX 2014 will be a valuable resource for each partner nation representative, as they consider or solidify their own country's space program.

"I think that the partner nations, by getting exposure to this (exercise), can go back (to their countries) and they can understand some of the political and strategic level discussions about going into space," York said. "Space enables our missions, it can enable their missions and it's accessible by them. The price points and the barriers to entering the space domain are dropping significantly, which is going to allow more countries, more of our partner nations, to take advantage of the space-based capabilities that are an advantage for them."

In addition to sharing information, York said he believes opportunities like this empower the U.S. to establish strong bonds with partner nations, which can prove invaluable in the future.

"I learned a little bit about each of their countries' space visions," York said. "But more than that, more importantly than that, what I gained is trust and confidence with (our partner nation participants). So, I know if there's ever any type of incident where they need assistance or we need assistance from (their air forces) that is space related who to call and they know who to call. I think that is really the best thing."

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