COMPACAF hosts largest Pacific Air Chiefs Symposium

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  • Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, hosted 17 top ranking airmen from throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region here Sept. 25 to 28 for the most widely-attended Pacific Air Chiefs Symposium to date.


Under the theme: “Challenges to Regional Security: Promoting Combined Operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” O’Shaughnessy opened the event emphasizing its significance.


“The Indo-Asia-Pacific region has become the most consequential region in the world,” he said. “The strategic complexity facing our region is unique and multi-faceted, which is why it is so vital that our partnerships remain strong and resilient in the face of rapid change.”


Much of that significance can be understood through pure numbers – the region accounts for 60 percent of the world’s population, 40 percent of the global gross domestic product, and operates eight of 10 of the world’s busiest ports and trade routes. Furthermore, 66 percent of the global oil transits through the region, which is also home to six of world’s 10 largest armies.


“This enormous amount of economic activity is enabled by continued and unfettered access to the global commons, and we can’t forget that,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Keeping the global commons truly global is crucial for maintaining trade and commerce in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. Our nations’ airmen and aircraft provide an undeniable deterrent against those that seek to threaten regional prosperity and stability.”


Threats to regional security vary greatly and range from territorial disputes and military aggression to natural disasters. The Indo-Asia-Pacific is home to 75 percent of the world’s active volcanos, 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes and 80 percent of the world’s tsunamis.


According to O’Shaughnessy, addressing the threats requires speed and flexibility, capabilities that both airpower and the airmen who employ it bring to the region.


“Though we are increasingly part of joint teams, airpower is a central component to ensuring continued commitment to the international rules and norms that allow our region to prosper,” he said. “As Airmen, we understand that airpower turns days into hours. In this theater, when disaster hits, natural or manmade, the tyranny of distance can best be overcome through the air. Our ability to integrate will undoubtedly save an untold number of lives.”


Because of this, much of the symposium discussion was focused on enhancing interoperability – from opportunities to improve information sharing and equipment compatibility, to more robust sharing of lessons learned and increased exercise integration.


“I really enjoyed this occasion which let us have proactive discussion and share our challenges. [We] remain committed to enhance and promote multinational cooperation and contribute our utmost to regional security,” said Gen. Yoshiyuki Sugiyama, Japan Air Self-Defense Force chief of staff.


“What’s great about this is every country that participates, no matter how large or small they are, has something unique to contribute,” said Ms. Heidi Grant, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs. “I really believe that we can’t fly, fight and win as an Air Force without these partnerships and alliances, and if you look at any of the challenges that we’re facing today or will face in the next 5 or 10 years, we’re going to need those strong partnerships and alliances to be capable.”


Representing more than 700,000 airmen across the region, air chiefs in attendance hailed from: Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, United States and Vietnam.


“This symposium gives air chiefs, who would not normally get together, an opportunity to discuss what is such an important part of the world, and our approach to how we will be responsible air chiefs to this region,” said Air Marshal Leo Davies, Royal Australian Air Force chief. “Getting together allows us to explore, and that exploration then gets us to make adjustments if we need to.”


“Any time we can get together and really try to coordinate our efforts we can bring a lot of goodness to bear on the issues we’re facing in the common goal of peace and security,” said Lt. Gen. Michael J. Hood, Royal Canadian Air Force commander.


Throughout the symposium, presentations focused on challenges to regional security, countering violent extremist organizations, future combined air operations, multilateral humanitarian and disaster relief operations and maritime domain awareness.


“Our nations are more interconnected than ever before. The linkages we are developing through exercises and exchanges create a web of security unlike this region has ever seen,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Increased interoperability between our forces benefits the entire region by producing powerful synergies that enable our forces to accomplish more together than apart.”


That interoperability is built on the backbone of interpersonal relationships, as highlighted by many during the multi-day event, and further validating the importance of events like PACS.


“You can really see over the years the trust that’s been built between not only the countries, but the individuals,” said Grant, who has been in her position for seven years and met with air chiefs from around the world. She touted today’s realities reflected in the significance of this year’s symposium attendance. “We’re so much stronger together…the challenges we meet are no longer regional challenges, but global challenges.”


In addition to planned panels and presentations, the multi-day event offered participants time to conduct sidebar discussions, to include an event held with the United States, Japan, Australia and the Philippines Monday afternoon.


For the past 70 years, the U.S. Air Force has worked with allies, partners and friends in the region to uphold the order created by mutual commitment to international rules and norms. Initiated in 1989, the Pacific Air Chiefs Symposium continues to provide a unique opportunity for air chiefs and representatives to articulate common regional challenges and reaffirm their commitment to peace, prosperity, security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.