JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
With a priority to strengthen relationships with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) kicked off the Pacific Air Chiefs Symposium 2021 (PACS-21), August 31.
During the symposium PACAF senior leaders work alongside U.S. allies and partners to collaborate and share best practices to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. The PACS-21 event highlights the importance of developing strong relationships with one another to better understand common issues and challenges.
“The first thing I want to strengthen is our relationships themselves,” said Gen. Ken Wilsbach, PACAF commander. “By being together and spending nearly a whole week together discussing issues that are really pertinent to all of us, [PACS-21] will be a facilitator to improving those relationships.”
One of the critical areas PACS-21 will focus on will be humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
“The size and scope of the region are extraordinary,” Wilsbach said. “We need to be prepared to address the long-term challenges in the Indo-Pacific.”
The PACAF commander also focused on air domain awareness.
“Because of the vastness of the region, domain awareness is really hard. If we work together, we can close those gaps,” Wilsbach explained. “And so those are two things that we certainly will be talking about, as well as a free and open Indo-Pacific that all the Chiefs attending are interested in.”
This is the first iteration of an in-person PACS since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It's been a long time since we've gotten together with many of the other air chiefs because of travel restrictions,” Wilsbach said. “It's a huge sacrifice in times of COVID for some people to be able to travel to Hawaii. There's nothing like face-to-face conversations. So we’ll have a chance to be able to have face-to-face dialogue, which will create a lot of different perspectives. It'll allow us to build relationships, and that's so important.”
In addition to this being the first in-person Pacific Air Chief Symposium since 2019, senior enlisted leaders will accompany the air chiefs for the first time.
“The enlisted corps is the backbone of the United States military, and this event will help our partners understand how our enlisted corps is constructed,” said Chief Master Sgt. David Wolfe, PACAF command chief. “This is about all of us coming together with shared values and shared concerns about things that are happening across the Indo-Pacific, and then being able to implement strategies that will counter those that don’t share our values — and support those that do.”
Overall, PACS-21 enables the U.S. to collaborate alongside allies and partners throughout the Indo-Pacific region to address enduring challenges.
“We need to accelerate, change or lose,” Wilsbach said. “Alongside our allies and partners, we will respond to the changing situation and ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.”