Built on a Legacy, Engineering for the Future

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Nick Wilson
  • Pacific Air Forces

Nearly 50 Pacific Air Forces civil engineers representing active duty, guard, and reserve components gathered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, December 4-8, 2023, for the first PACAF Engineer Senior Leader Forum since 2015.

The forum, hosted by PACAF Command Civil Engineer Col. Kevin Osborne, focused on three main points: setting the theater in support of Pacific Deterrence Initiatives and Agile Combat Employment Operations, discussing the Indo-Pacific Engineer warfighter posture, and identifying the best ways to provide installation support for power projection platforms.

The discussions that took place during the forum will trickle down and prepare Airmen at all levels for the future. Lt. Col. Natalie Chounet, commander of the 773rd Civil Engineering Squadron, emphasized how the forum gave her “the opportunity to network with fellow commanders and discuss how we are posturing our Airmen for the future fight.”
With U.S. adversary targeting capabilities in mind, all eyes were on 2027 as adaptive rehabilitation projects to WWII-era airfields are underway by the 356th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Group to advance U.S. Air Force capabilities in the Indo-Pacific. The 513th Expeditionary RED HORSE starting runway restoration on the island of Tinian was among the highlights discussed. Strategically located near Guam and part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Tinian runway restoration will bolster airpower and Agile Combat Employment capabilities in the Pacific.
In addition to restoring runways, Airmen engineers are focused on protecting assets with the Expedient Small Asset Protection shelter system. Designed to be used in any environment, these shelters will enhance operational capability.

According to Osborne, the Air Force's commitment to building and maintaining infrastructure is equally important as its ongoing collaboration with allies and partners.

“We can’t do this alone as we have an enduring advantage,” Osborne explained. "Only by working together with our allies and partners can we be stronger together.”

In line with the PACAF Strategy 2030, PACAF’s integrated and proactive approach will preserve strength, deny strategic competitors’ military objectives, and defend interests shared with allies and partners.

“Collaboration to get after this end state is important because it establishes a foundation of trust and relationships early on when we are setting the theater,” added Col. Rodney Hammond, Air Force Reserve Command, A4 Civil Engineer Readiness division chief.

Leaders detailed upcoming joint exercises and emphasized ongoing collaboration and training with allies and partners to enhance readiness. Since future conflict would require a combined effort, learning from and training alongside the joint team was a key focus area during the forum.

The forum’s capstone event was the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day memorial. PACAF Engineers in attendance joined Airmen and families to honor the service members and civilians who lost their lives during the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor and other U.S. military installations across Oahu.

During the Pearl Habor attack, the 804th Engineering Aviation Battalion responded first. These engineer aviation battalions proved the U.S. Army Air Corps required their own organic capability during World War II which paved the way for the birth of the U.S. Air Force in 1947 and our Civil Engineer squadrons.

“Built on a legacy…engineering for the future,” said Col. Kevin Osborne. “Aviation Engineers in World War II faced similar challenges that we do today in the theatre. By learning from the past and building off the legacy established before us, together we can overcome our current challenges and bolster a ready force.”