Four-month Peruvian deployment leaves patriotic impression

  • Published
  • By Maj. Douglas McMahon
  • 33rd Flying Training Squadron
As I approached the end of my latest deployment, I found it difficult not to reflect on how great it is to be an American.
The South Americans, particularly the Peruvians, share this same sentiment.
Simply put, the history of Peru is quite amazing. It could be called the cradle of South American civilization. From Cuzco, the Incas created an impressive empire that controlled the majority of the continent. Their architecture, organizational skill and language continue to thrive to this day. But my schedule allowed precious little time to gaze at the endless expanse where Pizarro once stood to claim the land for king and country.
According to Air Force Personnel Center's Aug. 3, 2005 "Air Force seeks applicants for (International Affairs Specialist) program" article, "the Air Force is seeking to develop a cadre of Air Force officers with international insight, foreign language proficiency and cultural understanding to work in today's security and expeditionary operations environment." Having worked with Army, Navy and Marine officers in Latin America, it is evident the other services are strongly encouraging their officers to possess international insight as well. Since the preponderance of Vance Air Force Base's military population is composed of junior officers, I felt it fitting to share some experiences as a catalyst to help fulfill our leadership's goal of achieving this specialized cadre of officers who will become "force multipliers that will significantly increase the effectiveness of air and space power."
I was on a four-month rotation, assigned to the U.S. Embassy, Lima, Peru. Much of my mission as the Chief of the Joint Planning and Assistance Team was unclassified, but in the interest of force protection, I will minimize specifics. I had the privilege of working with our various military, state department and locally employed Peruvian colleagues. Not only did I realize the cultural differences between the United States and Peru, but also came to realize the differences between U.S. State Department and Department of Defense members. In my opinion, it is very useful for military people to experience these differences.
Of the noteworthy events, besides being rocked by no fewer than three magnitude 5 or greater earthquakes, I had the opportunity to work with the Peruvian National Police, Navy, Air Force and Army. I made friends at a Peruvian National Police Base in Pulcallpa, while facilitating the work of an Air Mobility Command airfield survey team. In Iquitos, I visited with the Navy to survey, first-hand, its operations on the Amazon. I had the opportunity to plan and execute the Secretary of Defense's ingress and egress from the Peruvian Air Force's ramp at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima. All three joint exercises in Peru over those four months afforded me the opportunity to work with special operations forces. And yes, I visited the hallowed grounds of Cuzco and witnessed the sanctity of Machu Picchu.
Most rewarding was the ability to interact with Peruvians, particularly, the Peruvian Air Force. Their Air Force, just 30,000 strong, and under funded, was not lacking in intelligent and professional officers. Most officers spoke English better than me, which did little to help my Spanish. In September, I invited about 150 Peruvian Air Force and family members to attend our Air Force Anniversary Celebration. This was one of the best experiences for my whole team. I felt an extreme sense of pride when I realized at that celebration just how much respect and admiration the world has for our United States Air Force.
I recommend interested Air Force people pursue similar opportunities and experiences. After four months, I can honestly say I have the same respect and admiration for Peruvians ... as they say in Lima, and beyond: Viva El Peru!