By Senior Airman Joshua Smoot, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
/ Published February 24, 2016
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- After spending more than a week sharing civil engineering techniques, 54 engineers from the U.S. Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force concluded the Partner Nation Silver Flag exercise Feb. 19, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
The event was the first time partner nations were presented the opportunity to travel to Guam to trade engineering practices with each other and the U.S. Air Force. Previously, Silver Flag primarily consisted of U.S. Airmen, ranging from 120-130 trainees.
“This is the first Partner Nation Silver Flag that we have done, that’s what makes this so special,” said Master Sgt. Michael English, 554th RED HORSE acting Silver Flag flight superintendent. “We were able to bring four of our closest allies and partners together to train and build the partnerships we need in the event that we need to call on each other for battle.”
Silver Flag is a U.S. Pacific Command multilateral subject matter expert exchange led by engineers from the 554th RED HORSE Squadron. The exercise is designed to build partnerships and promote interoperability through the equitable exchange of civil engineer-related information.
The contingency environment training focused on bare base beddown, sustainment operations and recovery after attack.
After the kickoff of Partner Nation Silver Flag, students divided into groups based on their specialties, which included command and control, electrical, power production, heavy repair and emergency management.
As the week progressed, engineers trained on properly performing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear procedures and set up a mobile aircraft arresting system, emergency airfield lighting system and high voltage power generation and distribution systems.
“The training from the USAF was great, along with working with the JASDF, ROKAF and RSAF and learning their techniques,” said RAAF Corporal Michael Breen, plumber. “The comradery between all of the nations was fantastic.”
Although most trainees performed tasks they previously had expertise in, some broke out of their comfort zones such as JASDF Capt. Masaki Ishida, civil engineer element chief, and JASDF Staff Sgt. Kazuma Noshita, fire fighter, who joined the CBRN class.
“What surprised me the most was when I found out I was given students who were not disciplined in the career field,” USAF English said. “Ishida and Noshita had no background in CBRN operations. When we came together at the end of the week, they were very knowledgeable. They were actually teaching some of the command and control student’s techniques that I shared with them. That definitely surprised me, but I was happy to see that.”
For many of the students, this was their first time training with other nations and for some, leaving the country.
“This was my first time going overseas for training, but these opportunities don’t come very often,” said ROKAF Master Sgt. Park Cheong Hae, airfield lighting specialist. “Although I was nervous, I was very happy I was able to get this great opportunity for training.”
On the final day of the event, the trainees displayed what they learned throughout the week by conducting one final exercise.
Due to the multiple nations speaking different languages, several translators were selected throughout Pacific Air Forces to alleviate the confusion between languages.
One of the translators was USAF Staff Sgt. Hyojin Kim, 392nd Intelligence Squadron cryptologic linguist, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, who translated English into both Korean and Japanese for JASDF and ROKAF students.
“There are many times when there is a communications breakdown because of a language barrier,” Kim said. “Interpreters are very important, because they bridge that gap allowing seamless communication and understanding between the people.”
With the help from the translators and communication via gestures, the training gradually became smoother for the participants. By the end of the week, some cadre didn’t require translators as much as they did at beginning of the Silver Flag.
Concluding the exercise with a cleanup and graduation, the students left Andersen AFB with an added knowledge about the civil engineering career field. In addition, the training allowed Airmen from countries who normally don’t interact often with these topics, to build friendships and gain a better understanding on each other’s customs and courtesies.
“Building these partnerships and relationships this week is the most important aspect,” English said. “This training sustains my confidence in the USAF by assuring me and my family will stay safe long after I retire. By enhancing our allies and partner nation’s abilities, we are making them the best as well.”