JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Heidi Grant, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, met with Mongolian officials over a three-day visit to Ulaanbataar and Nalaikh Air Bases, Mongolia, at the invitation of the Mongolian Air Chief May 17-19, 2018.
Discussions held during the visit marked the highest level of U.S. Air Force discussions ever held in the country and reaffirmed the two nations’ commitment to the stability of the Indo-Pacific region.
"We have a strong interest in increasing security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific,” Grant said. “Cooperating with Mongolia enables us to align our efforts with a like-minded partner and share responsibility for preserving peace in the region."
Grant’s visit served as a follow up to previous discussions on Airman-to-Airman talks (A2AT) between the US and Mongolia. Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) officials and their Mongolian Air Force Command counterparts signed the A2AT official terms of reference, an agreement formalizing the U.S. and Mongolia A2AT, and tentatively scheduled the first engagement for 2019.
"In-person contact like Airman-to-Airman talks help us establish trust and mutual respect among our personnel,” Grant said. “With developing partners like the Mongolian air force, these interactions can be crucial for designing enduring, mutually-supporting partnerships."
Pacific Air Forces first began the A2AT program in 2012 and currently participates in bilateral air force talks with 13 nations. The talks provide an avenue to develop interoperability, foster military-to-military relations and improve bilateral cooperation.
“Airman-to-Airman talks allow for discussion of current events and to plan or set goals for the next few years to meet our shared objectives,” said Maj. Christine Carr, PACAF Mongolia country director.
Developing an air force is one of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s priorities for greater engagement with Mongolia, and part of the command’s overall goal to assist the Mongolian Armed Forces pursue defense reform priorities.
Mongolia and the U.S. have engaged in military-to-military cooperation since 2003, when Mongolia was partnered with Alaska through the National Guard’s State Partnership Program. The security relationship has increasingly matured over the past 15 years.
"The Mongolian Armed Forces are strong partners for us,” Grant said. “They've made significant contributions to our national security objectives through participation in humanitarian, peacekeeping, and combat operations, and we're excited to assist them in turn as they work to develop their air force."