JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
In lieu of the normal in-person attendance, commanders, command chiefs and directors from across Pacific Air Forces connected virtually for the spring commander’s conference, including a China Symposium, Operational Plan table top exercise and resiliency discussion April 13 and 15.
“While the ongoing pandemic has certainly presented challenges to our ability for physical attendance, it was my determination that the information, discussion, and collaboration from both our China Symposium and our semiannual conference, were too important to say it was too hard to execute,” said Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., PACAF commander.
As with every conference, Brown’s vision for the event focused on enhancing leadership awareness, challenging our thinking, and driving collaboration and discussion across leadership at all levels.
“All of this is designed to make us think, increase our dialogue and make us better, to include how we might all change our perspective and understanding in a post-COVID world,” he said. “We should take full advantage of the things we’re doing differently now to think differently about how we approach the future.”
The China Symposium portion of the conference brought together experts from academia, think tanks, and within the U.S. military to discuss opportunities to bolster understanding, identify ways to support and enable the Joint Force, allies and partners, and collaborate on ways to ensure the command is postured to compete, deter and win.
“This event really helped us gain a better understanding of where we are, where we need to be, and where we need to go,” Brown said. “We are committed to our role in promoting long-term peace and prosperity and need to think about how each of us can address actions that threaten or undermine the rules-based international order.”
Discussion included the abundance of disinformation regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the importance of our strong network of allies and partners to counter regional threats.
“We can’t overemphasize the need for transparency, cooperation, and trust, not only with our allies and partners, but especially with our Airmen and families,” Brown said.
Transitioning to the broader conference discussion, Brown addressed a number of areas where the command has made progress since the fall gathering, to include an overhaul of DOC (Designed Operational Capability) statements that define unit wartime capability, a command-wide review of exercise priorities, the Air Force-wide adoption of the Agile Combat Employment concept of operations, and an enhanced focus on initiatives to develop and ensure the resiliency of the force.
The timing also offered the opportunity to discuss how adaptations to preserve readiness and resiliency through COVID-19 should drive us in shaping a “new normal” across PACAF.
“We have to be ready to lead in the changes ahead, to include capturing what we’re doing right, where can we improve, and what can be eliminated or needs to be added,” he said. “And most importantly, how do we stay socially connected?”
A week prior, Brown and Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Johnson, PACAF command chief, released a video focused on just that, the importance of prioritizing social connection despite the physical distancing and travel restrictions in place to ensure health and safety of our Airmen and families.
For many units, their efforts since the Fall CSAF-directed Resiliency Tactical Pause have paid dividends in today’s physically-distanced environment, to include the involvement of family and community members. That connection has expanded beyond the local area to many commanders and chiefs intentionally timing their virtual engagements to directly connect with family members around the globe.
“We’re inspired by the initiatives we’re seeing across the command and grateful for the opportunity to share ideas and best practices, and to identify where we need to leverage more resources,” Johnson said.
All in attendance applauded the work across the command from the medical community, chaplains, mental health providers, family life counselors, and child care workers. A number of chiefs also highlighted Airmen-led initiatives that have taken hold, from Dorm Councils developing creative fitness solutions, to using social media to share talents, provide professional development and organize virtual events.
“Our mission hasn’t slowed and the need to care for one another hasn’t changed. They’ve evolved and will continue to evolve going forward,” Brown said. “We’re all in this together.”