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By Sgt. Zoe Morris
West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs
West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, alongside the Senior Enlisted Leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Phillip Cantrell, conducted a video teleconference with the Peruvian Air Force (Fuerza Aérea del Perú (FAP)) Commanding General, Rodolfo Garcia and staff July 21, 2020, from the WVNG Joint Forces Headquarters in Charleston, West Virginia.
The purpose of this senior officer meeting was to share information, best practices and lessons learned on military response efforts to the current COVID-19 pandemic, as well as discuss plans for potential future engagements.
“We have long worked with our Peruvian counterparts on natural disaster, humanitarian aid, warfighter training and more, through the State Partnership Program,” Hoyer said. “The pandemic is unique in that we face the same issues concurrently, allowing for real-time, actionable collaboration.”
Prior to delving into the topics at hand, Hoyer and Cantrell offered their condolences to General Garcia on the unexpected loss of four FAP airmen from a helicopter crash recently.
Development in COVID-19 response was top of the discussion, with Garcia and Hoyer sharing response mechanisms to help prevent further infection in the general population. Both generals agreed to continue collaboration and sharing of COVID-19 lessons learned via virtual exchanges and staff communications, particularly with regard to Airmen and Soldier safety.
Garcia proposed the FAP and WVNG medical detachments connect directly to exchange lessons learned, best practices and personal protective equipment techniques and procedures, as well as updated procedures on aeromedical evacuation for COVID-19-positive individual.
“The West Virginia National Guard is a great organization that covers a broader spectrum of capabilities for COVID-19 response and military operations,” stated Garcia. “It is a priority of mine to work with the West Virginia National Guard, as I believe the scope and response that they provide to their state and nation is superior to that of other forces.”
Hoyer and Cantrell agreed, and offered suggestions that included potentially creating a virtual Officer Professional Development for the FAP doctors at a medical intensive care unit and also conducting a joint operation between both institutions for the purpose of training and idea sharing.
With the desire to continue essential training, Hoyer and Garcia discussed additional upcoming events that the two military organizations could collaborate on including subject matter expert exchanges for flight medicine, participation in various exercises in both Peru and West Virginia and additional NCO professional development seminars offered virtually.
“The West Virginia-Peru relationship has been longstanding and very successful, particularly in recent years with the incorporation of NCO professional development and sustained subject matter expert exchanges,” said Sgt. 1st Class Hector Guillen, SPP Peru coordinator. “While the pandemic has made meeting face to face difficult for our program, the excellent relationships built over the years has enabled us to continue moving forward towards our shared goals and objectives.”
Hoyer noted that this teleconference is a crucial part of maintaining a semblance of normalcy with the SPP program during this unprecedented time.
The West Virginia/Peru SPP was formalized in 1996. In just over 20 years, Peru and West Virginia have partnered together for more than 120 interactions between the forces providing insight into regional challenges facing the Andean Ridge, especially in the areas of counter-insurgency, anti-terrorism, emergency preparedness, risk mitigation, disaster response and recovery.