RIMPAC 2006: Perfect air operations training

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chris Vadnais
  • Air Force Print News
Airmen and Sailors working in the Pacific Air Operations Center here are getting unique command and control training during the Rim of the Pacific exercise, known as RIMPAC 2006.

Seven Pacific Rim nations and the United Kingdom are participating with the United States in the major maritime exercise, engaging some 40 ships and six submarines in combat training off the coast of Hawaii. Nearly 160 aircraft are involved as well.

An integral part of the Gen. George C. Kenney Headquarters, Hickam's Pacific Air Operations Center is a state-of-the-art command and control center. RIMPAC 2006 calls for more than 200 sorties per day. Since pilots from both the Navy and the Air Force are flying in the exercise, the PAOC is employing Sailors and Airmen in command and control operations. At first, this presented some challenges.

"We speak different languages, and we found out initially that we have different acronyms for things, but those are easily overcome," said Brig. Gen. Greg Ihde, KHQ vice commander and PAOC commander.

"That's why we practice; that's why we have exercises. That's why it's important to work together, not only with our Navy brothers and sisters here, but with our coalition partners," he said.

In the PAOC, those partners include Canadian, Australian and South Korean servicemembers. The key to success in a multinational environment like this is communication.

"A couple of people I've tried to talk to have had difficulty understanding me because of my Australian accent, which I find of course very hard to understand," laughed Group Capt. Tony Needham, one of the combined air operations directors.

"But communicating is the key. We learn how to communicate with (U.S. forces) better in a systems way, and also we learn how to communicate better people-to-people," he said.

The exercise is proving to be good for younger Airmen, too. Capt. Yuri Mokievsky-Zubok is a Canadian F-18 pilot with about six months of experience. Working in the AOC during RIMPAC has given him new insight into his job.

"I (learned) this organization does exist, and that this is where all the orders come from," he said. "How it actually came about within the world of the AOC I never knew, so being able to come here and be a part of it is a big learning experience. I'm learning quite a bit and seeing how the process actually comes together."

Naval officers will say the Pacific Command is 90 percent covered by water, and Air Force officers will be quick to reply that it's 100 percent covered by air and space. Service rivalries aside, military leaders know that joint and coalition operations are more effective than any one service's efforts. Training like this provides the opportunity to improve joint and multinational relationships in the Pacific.

"When we go home we'll know people here, and if we have to solve problems in the future we'll know who to call at Hickam," said Group Captain Needham.