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19 Airpower leaders virtually discuss COVID-19, severe weather mitigation

Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander, greets various pacific air chiefs during a virtual teleconference at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Sept. 9, 2020. The two topics of the virtual discussion included COVID-19 lessons learned and mitigating the impacts of severe weather. A total of 19 air forces throughout the Indo-Pacific participated, including France and Canada. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff. Sgt. Mikaley Kline)

Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander, greets various pacific air chiefs during a virtual teleconference at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Sept. 9, 2020. The two topics of the virtual discussion included COVID-19 lessons learned and mitigating the impacts of severe weather. A total of 19 air forces throughout the Indo-Pacific participated, including France and Canada. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff. Sgt. Mikaley Kline)

Various air chiefs throughout the Indo-Pacific, including France and Canada, participate in a virtual teleconference at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Sept. 9, 2020. The two topics of the virtual discussion included COVID-19 lessons learned and mitigating the impacts of severe weather. A total of 19 air forces throughout the Indo-Pacific participated, including France and Canada. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff. Sgt. Mikaley Kline)

Various air chiefs throughout the Indo-Pacific, including France and Canada, participate in a virtual teleconference at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Sept. 9, 2020. The two topics of the virtual discussion included COVID-19 lessons learned and mitigating the impacts of severe weather. A total of 19 air forces throughout the Indo-Pacific participated, including France and Canada. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff. Sgt. Mikaley Kline)

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR HICKAM, Hawaii --

The Pacific Air Forces commander hosted a video teleconference with leaders from 19 air forces throughout the Indo-Pacific to discuss COVID-19 lessons learned and mitigating the impacts of severe weather, Sept. 9, 2020.  

“I am humbled to join this esteemed group of airpower leaders and continue the collaborative efforts already underway to serve our collective interests to safeguard a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Gen. Ken Wilsbach in his opening remarks.

The teleconference was Wilsbach's first combined meeting with his air chief counterparts, continuing the commitment to increased collaboration and open communication set by his predecessor Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff. 

“In my discussions with Gen. Brown, he highlighted the air chief’s ongoing dialogue as one of the key accomplishments from the 2019 Pacific Air Chiefs Symposium,” said Wilsbach. “I strongly believe consistent dialogue will advance our collective interests and help us anticipate future challenges.”

During the discussion, representatives from the Republic of Singapore, Thailand, and Australia shared lessons learned from their experiences with the challenges of operating in a COVID-19 environment.

“Just last year, 68 million passengers came through our airport and our high population density and our open economy make us very vulnerable to COVID-19 transmission,” said Maj. Gen. Kelvin Khong, Republic of Singapore Chief of Air Force. “One of the reasons we have managed to keep the fatality rate low is because we have managed to keep our health care systems from being overwhelmed. This allows us to closely monitor the COVID-19 cases and step up the level of care for patients.”

Following his COVID-19 presentation, Khong answered questions posed by his fellow air chiefs.

“Pacific Air Forces has learned the value of these virtual forums of being able to plan and execute engagements despite the inability to meet in-person,” said Wilsbach “We would like to continue virtual events even after COVID-19 as they produce the opportunity for meaningful dialogue.”

After discussing COVID-19 lessons learned, many of the air chiefs expressed how they mitigate the impacts of severe weather to air operations.

"Severe weather affects our collective operations, aircraft safety and storage plans, and overall readiness,” said Wilsbach. “Sharing lessons learned will allow us to be more resilient and able to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts post-severe weather events.”

Representing allied and partner air forces from across the Pacific theater, the air chiefs focused on enhancing stability in the Asia-Pacific region by promoting collaboration, increasing communication, and developing cooperative responses to contingencies and disasters like those caused by severe weather or COVID-19.

 “Today our conversation spans the globe from Mongolia to France, which is a testament to the importance placed on this group and the challenges that we seek to address together,” said Wilsbach. “I am looking forward to our next teleconference in December.” 

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