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NEWS | Oct. 3, 2022

Indo-Pacific Component Commanders Stress Importance of Partners

By Jim Garamone, DOD News

WASHINGTON -- All the military component commanders of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command stress the need for partnership in the immense region of the world.

Reporters traveling with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III interviewed with the component commanders: Air Force Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach, the commander of Pacific Air Forces; Navy Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of the Navy's Pacific Fleet, and Army Maj. Gen. Peter N. Benchoff, the chief of staff of U.S. Army Pacific.

They discussed the readiness of U.S. forces in the region to defend U.S. interests, and all emphasized the work soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Guardians do to build interoperability, understanding and procedures to work with allies, partners and friends.

The United States is a Pacific power with vital national interests spread throughout the region.

"Our objective is to, to help contribute to a free and open Indo-Pacific," Wilsbach said at his headquarters at Hickam Air Force Base. "We do that through mostly airpower, and we obviously have many airmen, and we have aircraft that can generate that air power. But one other way that we do this is through allies and partners."

China is the pacing threat in the region, but Russia also maintains significant forces in the Pacific. "Clearly, China wants to be the world's only superpower, and they actually believe that everybody else has to be a loser, and they can be the only winner," Wilsbach said. "It's clear that they want to impose their will on the world, especially their close neighbors. And that's, that's counter to our objective of [being] free and open."

Pacific Air Forces is at a very high readiness level across the region from Alaska and Hawaii to Guam, Japan, and Korea, the general said. The airmen train hard and they interact with allies and partners all the time. "We get interoperability with those allies and partners," he said.

He spoke about the recently concluded Pitch Black exercise hosted by Australia. As the name implies, it is an exercise that emphasizes operating in low light. "There were 17 countries flying," he said. "And often when you have that many countries flying in one exercise, you actually have to reduce the complexity of the exercise so that everybody can participate."

But that didn't happen; there was not reduction in complexity, he said. "It was about as complicated as a mission as we train to. Watching the mission unfold, I was extremely impressed with the professionalism and the airmanship that was displayed by all 17 countries."

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