Pacific Airlift Rally strengthens interoperability in Philippines

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jordan Smith
  • Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

Humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations are imperative to places around the world prone to natural or man-made disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes, and conflict. Strong relationships, combined readiness, and shared values all contribute to the ability to effectively save lives and recover resources when disaster strikes.

While it is common for the U.S. military to support non-governmental organizations during HA/DR operations, coalition endeavors between the U.S. and our partners and allies can magnify the power and effectiveness of initial rapid emergency response and resource transportation. Simulating a crisis and practicing joint response operations can boost preparedness – contributing to the success of a possible real-world HA/DR mission – and strengthen partnerships between allied nations.

Pacific Airlift Rally 2023 is a biennial, multinational HA/DR exercise involving the U.S., Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, and Malaysia air forces at Clark Air Base and Basa Air Base, Luzon Island, Philippines. PAR 23 supports Indo-Pacific HA/DR interoperability between the U.S. and military and civilian organizations of allied and partner nations who may respond to real-world crises.

“Pacific Airlift Rally exercises have included many realistic, real-world scenarios like earthquakes, severe flooding, cyclones, and wildfires,” said Gregory Fournier, the U.S. lead exercise planner for PAR 23. “These are all instances where rescue operations can quickly become critical to affected communities, and it’s important to be able to call on partnered nations to unite knowledge and expertise for the best possible outcome.”

Many different channels exist for providing and receiving HA/DR operations, including military, civilian, and non-governmental organizations that encompass the globe. Military-specific HA/DR capabilities include airlifting relief supplies, providing medical and chaplain support, supplying clean water and food, performing evacuations and personnel transportation, and occasionally search and rescue efforts, including in austere environments – a task that can prove difficult for non-military HA/DR organizations.

“I am a Chaplain officer, part of the religious support team,” said Philippines Air Force Chaplain John Baul Hechanova. “We can come in and help the medical corps in these situations without impeding or getting in the way of their work. Our role as chaplains is to bring comfort, consolation, or assistance in whatever way we can.”

PAR 23 included a tabletop exercise where key leaders with emergency management responsibilities examined the hypothetical emergency situation and created a contingency plan; a field training exercise in which participating forces practiced the plan created in the TTX; and a subject-matter expert exchange where experts shared valuable knowledge and expertise on various subjects relating to the hypothetical scenario.

These joint training environments build trust, security, stability, and prosperity, and provide mutually beneficial learning opportunities while fostering long-term relationships between the U.S. and our allies and partners.

Today, with developing military-to-military and military-to-civilian relationships in the Indo-Pacific, HA/DR operations have become standard practice due to the region's intense weather patterns. Flooding alone accounted for almost half of all weather-related disasters between 1995 and 2015, and affected 2.3 billion people, 95% of that population living in Asia.

“I always look forward to this type of training, and hopefully in the near future we will have more of these,” said Hechanova. “This can only serve our armed forces in a better way and hopefully, as we learn much from this exercise, we can also impart this to other service members so they can put it into practice.”

PAR 23 objectives include honing HA/DR skills and techniques by facilitating military, civilian, and non-governmental organization collaboration for increased interoperability between the U.S. military and host nation militaries. The U.S. is dedicated to working with our allies, partners, and organizations with common goals to build capacity and partnership.