JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
“The U.S. military is a comforting and reassuring presence,” said Maj. Gen. Conrado Parra, Jr., Philippine Air Force vice commander, during the fifth annual U.S.-Philippines Airman-to-Airman (A2A) talks, held Aug. 29 to 31 here at the Aloha Conference Center.
His words reflect the importance of the ability of multi-national militaries to work, train and fight alongside each other in the dynamic security environment that characterizes the Indo-Asia-Pacific. The A2A talks were designed to not only foster military-to-military relationships with allied forces, but also to pave the way for future collaboration.
Parra led a delegation of eight Filipino airmen that met with Maj. Gen. Mark Dillon, Pacific Air Forces vice commander, and 24 PACAF Airmen, Marine Forces Pacific and Hawaii Army National Guard personnel to discuss the way ahead for military cooperation between their two air forces.
The goals of the three-day conference were synchronizing planning between the U.S. Air Force and Philippine Air Force, shaping engagement priorities, strengthening the bilateral relationship with the PAF and focusing on a 3 to 5 year outlook for PACAF-PAF activities.
“These talks help to determine activities that will help bridge the gap between the two air forces,” said Parra. “We are here to discuss our primary concerns, regarding recent security developments in the East Asia Sea and our hope is that this will be a fruitful engagement for us.”
In recent years, military cooperation between the two countries has expanded to include the Philippines hosting U.S. Pacific Command and PACAF exercises like Balikatan and Pacific Angel, and supporting the Pacific Air Chief Conference, the Pacific Rim Airpower Symposium and the Pacific Airlift Rally. Additionally, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and his Filipino counterpart, Voltaire Gazmin, announced in April 2016 that the Philippines will host U.S. military missions to increase U.S.-Philippines security cooperation.
One of those missions included U.S. Pacific Command directing PACAF to stand up an Air Contingent at Clark Air Base, Philippines, in April 2016, to set the foundation for joint air patrols that complement ongoing joint maritime patrols between the two countries. The purpose of the Air Contingent is to provide credible combat forces capable of a variety of missions including force projection, air and maritime domain awareness, personnel recovery, combating piracy, and assuring access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law. Additionally, the contingent provides opportunities to expand cooperation and interoperability with Philippine counterparts and reassure partners and allies of our steadfast commitments in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. To date, the Philippines have hosted two iterations of Air Contingents, including A-10 Warthogs and HH-60G Pavehawks in April, and Navy EF-18 Growlers in June.
Additionally, both nations recently signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which like the Air Contingent, demonstrates U.S. commitment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific by establishing a mutually beneficial agreement that provides rapid humanitarian assistance and helps to build capacity for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Many of these key engagements have been successful and talks such as these further enable PACAF and PAF leaders to streamline the tactics, techniques and procedures that are shared between the two countries, strengthening the U.S.-Philippine bilateral relationship.
“Our two air forces have accomplished a lot of great training,” said Dillon. “Our goal during these talks is to continue the momentum by strengthening and thickening the relationship between the two air forces by building on the successes of the past with a solid roadmap for the future.”