JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) continues to find new ways to embrace the “accelerate change or lose” charge given by U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown, when he penned his August 2020 letter to Airmen.
In early 2023, PACAF welcomed Royal Australian Air Force Air-Vice Marshal Carl Newman into the role of PACAF deputy commander alongside U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James Jacobson. Newman brings nearly 34 years of military experience with him.
“Our Air Force must accelerate change to control and exploit the air domain to the standard the nation expects and requires from us,” Brown wrote. “If we don’t change – if we fail to adapt – we risk losing the certainty with which we have defended our national interests for decades. We risk losing a high-end fight.”
Leaders at PACAF Headquarters leaned full tilt into Gen. Brown’s idea by welcoming an Allied senior leader to fill a newly billeted position as an additional deputy commander. The aim is to continue building on the strength of Allies and partners in the region, breaking down barriers to unite a coalition force to preserves a free and open Indo-Pacific.
AVM Newman, alongside Lt. Gen. Jacobson, contributes to the regular battle rhythm, oftentimes providing different perspective and insight on vital PACAF matters. These perspectives will enhance PACAF effectiveness and is a testament to the importance of building partnerships to deter and respond to those who may seek to use power to reshape the rules based international system.
“It's historic for Pacific Air Forces, because we now have a general officer from another country with the title of Deputy Commander,” said Jacobson, a 33-year Air Force veteran. “That brings a few things. It brings perspective. It brings diversity of thought.”
Jacobson went on to explain having Newman at PACAF allows the command team to see problems in a more holistic way rather than a solely unilateral U.S. approach.
“[AVM Newman] brings the ability to immediately have someone at the table, at a leadership level, who can make decisions for the command who looks at things slightly different,” Jacobson said.
PACAF senior leaders plan to integrate more Allies and partners into the headquarters’ operations.
“We've been trying to build the number of Allies and partners on our staff for a while,” said Gen. Ken Wilsbach, PACAF commander. “I've passed that message to other air chiefs in the region and around the world – there's room for other countries to be here.”
Wilsbach’s aim is to strengthen PACAF headquarters’ staff by immersing U.S. Allies and partners into the day-to-day military operations occurring through the Indo-Pacific region.
“My position here is just another demonstration of the commitment PACAF has in deepening relationships with all of our Allies and partners,” said Newman. “We recognize that those relationships are actually key to the strength we can have when we operate together with collective interests.”
The sentiment of building together in the Indo-Pacific has also been echoed by Newman’s U.S. Army Pacific counterpart, Australian Army Maj. Gen. Chris Smith, USARPAC Deputy Commanding General.
"I've sat in forums of very senior officers from other armies; from Japan to Korea, Mongolia, to India and all the neighboring states," said Smith. "To represent U.S. interests as an Australian sends a really important message. One, it says the United States is very serious about partnering with other countries. And, it says that America has confidence in, and trusts, its Allies and partners to represent its interests. That's powerful."
The United States and Australia have continued to embrace opportunities alongside each other and build upon a longstanding relationship. The two countries have reached a 5-year milestone of the Enhanced Air Cooperation, a U.S. force posture initiative that expands engagement between each other’s air components to support stability in the theater.
For the Indo-Pacific, security of the region is dependent on the ability of many countries working, learning, and building together to maintain global order.
“We listen to our Allies and partners, and we change our approach based on their perspectives,” said Wilsbach, PACAF commander since July 2020. “It helps us to be better. Adversaries won’t just look at the U.S. Air Force, they’ll look at many other nations’ air forces that are here with us as proponents of a free and open Indo Pacific.”