From the Frontlines: Master Sgt. Daniel Colon

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Cody H. Ramirez
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
With the focus of American press on the war in the middle-east, many forget that the U.S. has global positioning; meaning the U.S. military isn't secluded to the frontlines of Afghanistan and Iraq, or preservation of maintaining a presence in the Pacific.

The U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Columbia, is an example of the U.S. maintaining public relations worldwide. Air Force Global Strike Command Airman, Master Sgt. Daniel Colon, country clearance manager for the embassy, was one warrior who faced the frontline of politics. He was deployed Oct. 2009 through June.

"It was a really great experience, and my first deployment to an embassy," said Sergeant Colon. "It had its dangers. Being an American in that area required you to be vigilant."

While security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, violence by narco-terrorist groups continues to affect some rural areas as well as large cities, according to the U.S. Department of State. To prevent problems that could arise, "Anytime a military member travels to a foreign country, the individual is supposed to put in a request through the Aircraft and Personnel Automated Clearance System," said Sergeant Colon. "It is used to inform the host-foreign government agencies of the traveler's existence just in case something was to happen."

All the APACS requests went through Sergeant Colon's system. His job was to delegate each request to their appropriate branch. The APACS information includes the person's name, when they will be in country, for how long, where they will be staying and contact information.

Sergeant Colon said, depending on the country, a set of requirements have to be met before the individual enters the country, such as isolation preparation, human relations, safety and anti-terrorism training. Once completed, the persons can leave for the country.

"I had to get them flight reservations, ensure they had the appropriate briefings, inclusive dates they would be in country ... then approve it," the sergeant said. "Then I would send it up to our commander, an Army colonel, to be signed. Once signed, I would translate the finalized request into Spanish for a Columbian general."

Working in a joint-environment is always a great experience, he said.

"The camaraderie in an environment like that is like nothing else," Sergeant Colon explained. "We collaborate so smoothly between services these days. We learn how each other branch does things and how they look at situations, and it's great."

"I see the best we offer and do, and what the other braches offer," he added. "We share our strengths and weaknesses for the better of our country."

Along with the experience of working alongside the Air Forces sister services, Sergeant Colon said seeing Columbia was incredible.

"Overall Bogota is a beautiful city. It rivals any city in the world as far as the architecture, food, stores and how modern it is," he said.

Even with the amount of work Sergeant Colon had, and the beautiful country side he was able to see, he said he missed home.

"What I missed most about the states was the freedom of getting in my car and going where I want," he described. "We were at the mercy of certain vehicles and had to wait on them due to safety, so just the freedom I'm used to was most missed."