Last week I returned from leading a 4-man Air Force training team to Colombia to teach high angle rescue techniques to Colombian Air Force helicopter crews and para-rescue personnel. I was hoping to blog daily about my experiences, but I quickly discovered that internet access was in high demand and I had to beg, borrow, and steal just to get a chance to check my email every few days. I was, however, still able to find time to do some writing throughout my adventure. These are the chronicles of my adventurous trip to Colombia…
Days 4, 5 and 6
The last 3 days have been a bit of a blur. Our training quickly found a rhythm and each day mirrored the next:
0800 Classroom instruction
1200 Break for lunch and siesta
1400 Classroom instruction
1630 Exercise and relax
1930 Prep for the next day
2200 Lights out
I did discover after my first cold-morning-shower that post-workout showers in the afternoon were much more refreshing and tolerable for 2 weeks. I have a feeling this lesson will prove to be extremely valuable to my morale.
I also realized that our best opportunities to connect with the students was outside of the classroom, so we took advantage of any chance we had to hang out with them… We rode with them to and from our classes. We hung out at the pool. We ate with them at the chow hall and the food court, trying new foods and practicing our Spanish.
In the US military, it is an aircrew tradition to carry a Challenge Coin on your person at all times. As the tradition goes, if someone drops a Challenge Coin, it is the responsibility of everyone present to also drop their coin; and the last person to drop has to buy the first round of drinks. Well, one of the students accidentally dropped his coin during class and within 10 seconds coins were clanging all over the floor. Thankfully, I had mine at the ready in my wallet and the highest ranking Colombian officer had forgotten his. I had no idea this was an international tradition! The colonel followed through and bought drinks for everyone, adding a little fun to our last afternoon of academics.
Later that night, I even had the opportunity to trade coins with Jefe Mosquera. Very cool!
Last night, I also had the opportunity to play soccer with these guys. Without a doubt, the most popular sport in Colombia is soccer, or futbol as they call it here. It’s not just a sport here either, it’s a passion and everybody loves it. Fortunately, I have a little soccer experience so I decided to give it a shot. I got to play goalie (my position as a kid) and my team actually one the night’s mini-tournament! The field we played on was in immaculate condition compared to the rest of the base. While there were weeds and construction along the roads and walkways throughout the base, the leaves were raked off the turf soccer field every singlerd day and it was the only place on base that was lit up at night. They didn’t even have street lights! Next time I come, I’m bringing my cleats!
I have the day off from teaching tomorrow, but I plan to spend the day learning Urban Rescue Techniques with the PJs. Should be fun!
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