COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- U.S. Air Force Airmen from across the Indo-Pacific assembled in Sri Lanka to work with their Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) counterparts to discuss best practices and various courses of action through the second round of Airman to Airman talks, mid-May at the SLAF Headquarters.
Sri Lanka, at its closest point, is 18 miles southeast of India and lies in the northern Indian Ocean, with the Bay of Bengal to its east, making it an ideal staging area for U.S. forces to provide assistance in the region.
“Sri Lanka holds an important location in the Indian Ocean and it is vital that we maintain a strong relationship with them,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. James O. Eifert, Air National Guard assistant to the commander of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). “In the event of a natural disaster, it would save time and resources if we have prepositioned humanitarian assistance supplies. It would allow us to immediately assist with their humanitarian response and save lives.”
The seven U.S. Airmen represented experts in airfield operations, logistics, safety and medicine. During the meeting, the two groups focused on enhancing regional security, future training opportunities and exercises geared toward strengthening interoperability and professional military education opportunities for both SLAF and USAF airmen.
“The discussions enable air force staff to air force staff discussions at the action officer level on various activities and engagements, not only in the current year of execution but also several years in advance,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Mark Lesar, PACAF International Affairs Division country director for South Asia.
The two-day meeting concluded with both sides gaining valuable information to share with key decision makers, which will help enable both forces to strengthen their bonds and look to the horizon to bolster interoperability.
“The engagement was very successful,” Eifert said. “The SLAF did an outstanding job of communicating their needs and priorities which enables us to bring them back to HQ PACAF. It was a great opportunity to be here and improve the Sri Lanka, U.S. relationship.”