JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), Guam and Hawaii Air National Guard Airmen, as well as Hawaii Army National Guard members met with Airmen from the Philippine Air Force for the 10th iteration of Airman-to-Airman (A2A) Talks between the two countries, Feb. 15-18.
The talks provide an avenue to develop interoperability, foster military-to-military relations and improve bilateral cooperation. The U.S. and partner nation air forces conduct these engagements to plan for upcoming bilateral activities and establish partner goals.
“We appreciate the Philippine Air Force’s ability to support this event as it is critical to advancing our ability to work together and achieve common objectives,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. David Burgy, Air National Guard Assistant to the Commander, Pacific Air Forces, during his opening remarks.
Burgy outlined three main objectives of these annual talks: review the effectiveness of all engagements, refine engagement priorities over the next several years, and strengthen the interoperability between the two air forces.
“In this current volatile security environment, interoperability is becoming more and more important,” said Philippine Air Force Maj. Gen. Stephen P. Parreño, Chief of Air Staff, Philippine Air Force. “Despite our cultural differences and other various challenges for our nations’ militaries, it is relevant that our alliance shall continue to grow and be more effective. May this engagement serve as a venue to nourish long-standing friendship and cooperation with the Philippine Air Force and Pacific Air Forces.”
Over the course of the week, the two air forces held several discussions about an array of topics in order to develop a better understanding of the needs of the two countries. Working group sessions consisted of logistics, plans and policy, training and operations, and cybersecurity.
“Ultimately, what we hope to achieve is improving the interoperability between our two air forces,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Christopher Faurot, Assistant Adjutant General-Air/Commander, Guam Air National Guard, Air National Guard Assistant to Commander, 11th Air Force. “It’s important because these engagements clearly demonstrate the air component support to the mutual defense treaty so that we can leave no doubt as to the steadfast nature of our alliance between our two great nations. So we want to make sure that people understand that a threat to you is a threat to us and we will be side-by-side with you.”
Guam and Hawaii are the State Partners to the Philippines, through the State Partnership Program—or SPP—which began in 2000, giving them 22 years of working together. One key aspect of the SPP links a unique component of the Department of Defense–a state's National Guard—with the armed forces or equivalent of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.
Through the SPP, the National Guard conducts military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals. The program also leverages whole-of-society relationships and capabilities to facilitate broader interagency engagements spanning military, government, economic and social spheres.
“For over 20 years, our state partners have participated in [many] events and we look forward to the next 20 years [and beyond] as we improve our relationship and interoperability to meet future challenges as brothers, together,” Faurot said.
During the week-long Airman-to-Airman engagement, members of the Philippine Air Force received a historical tour of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam as well as tours of Wheeler Army Airfield, Mount Ka’ala Radar Facility, Arizona Memorial and the Pacific Aviation Museum, giving them more insight as to how the base, and its surrounding facilities, plays a role in the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific.
“This annual event is also about strengthening our service-to-service relationships while working toward common goals with a long-term focus on regional peace, security and stability,” Burgy said. “More importantly, the engagements discussed in this venue will provide the air component support to the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, further bolstering the steadfast alliance of our great nations. I look forward to building upon the previous successes and ultimately developing a solid roadmap for future exercises, engagements and activities.”
The two air forces participate in exercises, such as Balikatan, Subject Matter Expert Exchanges, and Bilateral Air Contingency Exchange-Philippines—which will be called Cope Thunder-Philippines in the future.
“As we pursue our strategic initiatives….we look forward to the activities of this year as it will help us in our goal to become a more agile, independent air force,” Parreño said.
PACAF provides a number of opportunities for A2A talks throughout the Indo-Pacific region with other ally and partner nations to continue to build strong relationships.