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News | May 5, 2021

Security assistance enterprise trains Colombian counterparts

By Richard Bumgardner U.S. Army Security Assistance Command

Recently two U.S. Army Security Assistance Command employees trained more than 140 Colombian military and Ministry of Defense civilian personnel in how to develop and execute their own foreign military sales cases.

The training was prompted by the recent closure of the Southern Command’s Security Assistance Management office in Bogotá. SAMO personnel acted as intermediaries between USASAC and Colombia and managed FMS case development, case processing, and assisted the Colombians with transportation challenges following the loss of military-sponsored channel flights. The office closure left a void that was challenging, but necessary, to fill. 

Colombian Vice Minister of Defense, Jairo García Guerrero, and the military services, requested the in-depth FMS case training, which kicked off after a senior leader engagement by USASAC Commander Brig. Gen. Douglas Lowrey and his staff members the previous week.

“As of April 2021 there is no longer an office that helps with doing (FMS) letters of request, so all the Colombian services, the Army, Army Aviation, the Navy, Marines, the Air Force and their National Police, are now doing their own FMS cases,” said Jason King, USASAC country program manager for Colombia. “We came down here to make sure those personnel that are now in charge of their processes, are trained to submit the information and documentation to USASAC, and better understand the status of their cases currently being implemented.”

King was joined by Joseph Kidwell Jr., the senior central case manager at USASAC’s New Cumberland, Pennsylvania office. To Kidwell, who has worked Colombian FMS cases the past six years, this visit was more than just training the Colombians to manage their own FMS cases.

“The training is not only about building their capabilities, but it’s also about building relationships between our armies,” Kidwell said. “Being a former supply specialist and warfighter myself under 1st ID (Infantry Division), I understand the stress and challenges the Colombian military face as they purchase equipment and parts needed to ensure their combat readiness.”

For four days King and Kidwell provided detailed briefings to Colombian military members, national police and Ministry of Defense personnel. Topics included the role of USASAC, how the country defines its requirements, the transportation aspects, filing supply discrepancy reports, the use of multiple databases, making sense of letters of offer and agreement, develop letters of request, price and availability, offer expiration dates and case closure. 

After the daily training, attendees participated in a Q&A and focused discussions that included transportation issues, freight forwarding, consolidation points, the Defense Transportation System, reviewing status of individual LOA’s, new projects and fiscal year budgeting. 

Priority cases like the much anticipated Armored Security Vehicles and Rotary Wing Program Management Review cases were also worked, giving the Colombian hosts a complete review of their FMS cases.

Kidwell, who participated in the senior key leader engagement the week prior, also briefed senior U.S. and Colombian military leadership on transportation and logistical challenges resulting from the closure of a key delivery asset.

“This is the 13th trip I’ve taken to Colombia, but the most impactful by far,” said Kidwell. “For the first time I got to discuss the transportation issues we have had following the closure of the dedicated channel flight to the SOUTHCOM area, which has been a ginormous challenge for USASAC. I finally got to brief those key personal, like Mr. García, Brig. Gen. Lowrey, and senior embassy staff, who can make tough decisions for the betterment of the Colombian program.”

While weekly VTCs and daily emails help to resolve some of the problems FMS program and case managers might encounter, Kidwell went on to say that bringing the subject matter experts, the technical assistance staff and decision-makers together, and training them under one roof, will make the FMS process work better while helping Colombians fight internal threats within their country.

“I sincerely love what I do and the difference I make on a daily basis,” Kidwell said. “I know the training we do now will one day help when our nations have to fight together against a common enemy.” 

Army security assistance and foreign military sales are intended to build partner capacity and interoperability.  Events like this face-to-face FMS training, although held under the shadow of a global pandemic, help to strengthen relationships, which promotes long-term mutual interests and enhances regional stability.