ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Palm trees and tall grasses bend and sway in the near-constant breeze, which offers a welcome respite from the balmy temperatures and humidity inherent to the Northern Mariana Islands. The scene is tropical, beautiful, and could be described as peaceful were it not for the sporadic sound of simulated gunfire echoing through the nearby jungle.
Approximately 60 U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force), and Royal Australian Air Force security forces personnel participated in Pacific Defender 20-1 at the Pacific Regional Training Center near Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Feb. 9-14.
Pacific Defender 20-1, which was hosted by the 736th Security Forces Squadron (SFS) Commando Warrior flight, is the first in a region-wide series of security forces-centric exercises and subject matter expert exchanges scheduled for this year. The U.S. Pacific Air Forces-sponsored events bring together security forces personnel and key leaders from various Indo-Pacific nations to exchange knowledge through a week of demonstrations and hands-on practice, culminating in a two-day field application where participants put their new skills to the test.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Ryan Kiggins, 736th SFS commander, explained the subject matter expert exchange emphasizes interoperability between partner nations in the Pacific region, empowering members from all countries involved to move past cultural and language barriers. Participants identify commonalities and differences in tactics, techniques, and procedures in order to create opportunities for integration into each others’ processes and form the most effective team possible.
“It’s an awesome opportunity being able to see how the Koku Jieitai (JASDF) and RAAF work,” said Airman 1st Class Brandon Schleis, 824th Base Defense Squadron fire team member. “Getting to know what their operating procedures are compared to ours and having the chance to practice adaptive basing, which is new to us, have been very beneficial.”
During the exchange , participants observed U.S. Air Force, Marine, and RAAF Military Working Dog capability demonstrations and tested weapons used by U.S., RAAF, and Koku Jieitai (JASDF) security forces personnel. There were also hand-to-hand combatives instruction sessions as well as opportunities to practice operating in a simulated hostile environment.
“It’s been a great experience,” said RAAF Leading Aircraftwoman Kimberly de Haan, RAAF Base Richmond MWD handler. “I’ve learned a lot of new things I can take aboard for my own personal training and new things I can take back to the other team members in Richmond as well.”
By the end of the week-long exchange, participants had spent nearly 150 hours learning to capitalize on each others’ strengths and devising strategies to accomplish mission objectives most effectively by pooling resources and experience. They also built interpersonal connections along the way and gained the confidence to rely on each other when it matters most.
“Building camaraderie and creating those relationships with our foreign partners is probably my favorite part,” said Schleis. “Being able to have laughs and jokes while learning what they can do and showing them what we can do ensures when or if we need to work with them in the future, we have a baseline of what to expect and we can get to work more quickly and more effectively.”