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Cope North 24 inspires integration thru International Observer Program

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Natasha Stannard
  • U.S. Pacific Air Forces

Cope North is an annual exercise that provides multinational military forces the opportunity to build upon tactics, techniques and procedures through simulated combat operations facilitated by trilateral command and control.

During each Cope North, Pacific Air Force’s International Affairs division organizes the International Observer Program (IOP) as part of the exercise.

Throughout Cope North 24, 10 additional nations gained insights and collaborated with the six nations participating in the Agile Combat Employment exercise fueled by command and control, and mobility airpower. Observers interacted with members from the lead wings of the exercise: 18th Air Expeditionary Wing, 374th Air Expeditionary Wing and the 36th Expeditionary Crisis Response Wing.

“IOP provides allies and partners the flexibility to learn from witnessing Cope North operations without directly participating,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Billy Huffman, U.S. Pacific Air International Affairs Strategy and Plans branch chief. “It is a truly special experience to bring 10 different countries together and share our experience, cultures, and tradecraft at this exercise.”

This year’s IOP nations included: Nepal, Germany, Indonesia, Thailand, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Mongolia, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and New Zealand.

“It's great to work together with allies and partner nations. We are learning from each other to make the world a better place,” said Mongolian Air Force Maj. Sanjdorj Chimedsuren, 302nd Mobility Air Forces command and IOP observer. “I believe that Cope North is enhancing multinational relations and interoperability with allies and partners by sharing information, techniques and tactics to understand each other throughout the exercise.”

Chimedsuren iterated that it was impressive to see different nations come together and figure out ways to employ effective solutions to mission      despite factors that could limit understanding such as utilizing different technical platforms and speaking different languages.

Cope North 24 planners; however, came with solutions to such factors in mind. The exercise incorporated military translators to bridge communication gaps across a spectrum of mission sets ranging from Air Battle Management to Public Affairs.

Chimedsuren emphasized that the most important part of the exercise is putting differences aside, and building a diverse network of partnerships in which nations can share what they’ve learned with one another to build a stronger allied and partnered global defense structure. Ultimately, for him, the exercise comes down to the ability to know that there are nations that Mongolia can count on and trust if they need to “phone a friend.”

“Personally, I am happy to have friends from different nations,” said Chimedsuren “The most important thing is we meet and become friends.”

For Royal Netherlands Air Force Lt. Col. Joël Postma, Air Battle Manager and IOP observer, the exercise and IOP delivered in providing the space to foster relationships that can lead to increased future interoperability and cooperation.

“Seeing Agile Combat Employment from up-close really brings home the challenges we face operating in this environment while dealing with diverse contingencies,” he said. “The only way to successfully bring airpower effects to bear here is through close cooperation in alliances and partnerships. Cope North is an excellent platform to exercise just that.”