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NEWS | Dec. 5, 2023

Pacific Air Forces hosts medical group readiness symposium, addresses readiness challenges

By Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Wilson, Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

The Pacific Air Forces Surgeon General recently hosted a Medical Readiness Symposium on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Nov. 6-8.

Considering the pacing threat, the annual symposium enabled all PACAF medical group commanders, senior enlisted leaders, aeromedical evacuation squadron leadership and Numbered Air Force surgeons to discuss readiness challenges and collaborate on solutions.

“This was an excellent forum to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the issues faced in the region, exchange best practices and coordinate responses to emerging threats,” said Col. (Dr.) Susan Moran, PACAF Command Surgeon. “Working together, our medical leaders have proven they can optimize resources and pilot innovative solutions to overcome complex challenges.”

Gen. Ken Wilsbach, PACAF commander, highlighted the sense of urgency required based upon current and emerging threats. He emphasized the importance of a medically ready force to credibly generate and project an agile force. Wilsbach also thanked the medics for their global health engagements, strengthening partner nations and building interchangeability with Allies.

Additional guest speakers included Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Thomas W. Harrell, Defense Health Network Central director and the commander of Air Force Medical Agency Alpha; and Brig. Gen. (Dr.) John R. Andrus, the Joint Staff Surgeon.  Andrus, as the senior medical advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed the importance of strategic discipline as the team further postures the theater.

The symposium focused on the SG’s priorities to ensure PACAF medics are organized, trained and equipped for success. The leaders discussed robust rehearsals, emerging technologies, updated deployment personnel and equipment packages, contingency blood solutions and the prepositioning of supplies and equipment.

Col. Stella Garcia, 15th Medical Group commander, noted, “I appreciated hearing the strategic vision from INDOPACOM and other senior leaders, seeing the progress in modernization efforts, and delving into contingency planning details.” 

Chief Master Sgt. Lisa Thrasher-Stallard, 51st Medical Group senior enlisted leader, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, also shared this sentiment. 

“This allowed us as a team to analyze and discuss how we could best synchronize and work together in the future to deter, defend and sustain operations in the INDOPACOM theater,” Thrasher-Stallard said. “I left the symposium feeling confident in our readiness and ability to Fight Tonight!”

PACAF is staying centered on these SG priorities in Fiscal Year 2024 with over 40 exercises planned, including command post exercises, tabletop exercises and field training exercises, or FTXs. Command post and tabletop exercises primarily focus on role-playing activities with simulated tactical and operational roles based on facilitator injects while FTXs comprise of in-person role-playing with facilitator injects that require the “players” to execute mission objectives with limited simulation.

The many successful 2023 exercises, such as Cope North, Balikatan, Pacific Airlift Rally, Agile Reaper and installation-led exercises, served as important Agile Combat Employment rehearsals for PACAF medics, allowing them to practice tactical care under fire, prolonged casualty care and patient movement from austere areas.

Throughout the symposium, attendees reinforced the significance of being prepared to provide critical health service support during contingencies, ensuring a swift and effective response.

Chief Scott Piper, PACAF Chief of the Medical Enlisted Force, highlighted the importance of frequent readiness training to ensure a resilient force. 

“Winning teams do not practice how they play, rather they play how they’ve practiced,” Piper shared, challenging those in attendance. “It is imperative that we ensure that we are challenging our teams with intense training rehearsals, and we are strengthening their resilience through the hardest scenarios imaginable as true resilience is developed before a conflict, not after.”   

The 3-day symposium energized the PACAF leaders to strengthen their unit readiness programs and to further collaborate with their joint and international partners.

“Overall, the symposium underscored the importance of global health engagement, working closely with interagency partners, country teams, and combatant commands, ultimately bolstering the capacity and capability of our joint enroute care systems,” said Col. (Dr.) Brent Johnson, PACAF deputy command surgeon, summarizing the event.

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