AFTAC invites FLOs to tour WC-135 at Homestead ARB

  • Published
  • By Susan A. Romano
  • AFTAC Public Affairs
The commander of the Air Force Technical Applications Center invited several Foreign Liaison Officers assigned to U.S. Southern Command to tour the WC-135 Constant Phoenix June 25 when the jet flew from Offutt AFB, Neb., to Homestead ARB, Fla.
The intent was to give the FLOs the opportunity to learn about the contributions and capabilities of the aircraft while strengthening those international partnerships in order to facilitate future collaborations to counter nuclear threats in the region.
The FLOs were representatives from Paraguay, Peru, Panama, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Ecuador, all countries in USSOUTHCOM’s areas of responsibility.
The WC-135 is an atmospheric collection aircraft that collects airborne effluents and particulates in the atmosphere to help AFTAC execute its nuclear treaty monitoring mission.  Air sampling missions are routinely carried out throughout the world, and AFTAC is working with the U.S. State Department and the Combatant Commands to expand its reach in Central and South America.
“One of the main objectives of this international outreach effort is to help the foreign liaison officers understand what baseline radiation levels are, why baseline sorties are important to national security, and how partnerships with other nations are essential to providing accurate assessments in the event of a nuclear test or incident,” said Col. James A. Finlayson, AFTAC commander.  “We have shared interests with our neighbors in the southern hemisphere, and being able to show them in person what the Constant Phoenix’s capabilities are is invaluable.”
Six of the seven FLOs were from Spanish-speaking countries, so AFTAC requested the assistance of Lt. Col. Maria Methe, commander of the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron (home base for the WC-135), who is fluent in Spanish.  This was a huge win for everyone involved.
“Being able to effectively communicate the inner-workings of the WC-135 to our international partners in their native language is so incredibly important, not just technically, but also culturally,” said Finlayson.  “The FLOs were so impressed with Lt. Col. Methe’s profound expertise and ability to explain the nuances of the mission, and doing so in Spanish was just icing on the cake.  I think two of the FLOs were so inspired by her energy and knowledge that they wanted to adopt her!”
While the WC-135 has had mission-related operators and maintainers from other host nations onboard, this event was the first time AFTAC has hosted this number of foreign nationals on the jet.
“We are in the midst of planning extended sorties in USSOUTHCOM’s area of responsibility, which is why we wanted to showcase the aircraft to our Central and South American partners,” said Jeff Dyball, AFTAC’s Combatant Command Liaison Officer.  “Agencies can share documents, slide shows, talking papers, and even conduct video teleconferences, but nothing is more effective and impactful than seeing something up close and in person.  We appreciate all the support we got from SOUTHCOM, Homestead ARB, the 55th Wing at Offutt, and 12th Air Force at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.  Without their assistance and willingness to support, I’m not sure if this event would have been as successful as it was.”