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Pacific Defender serves as foundation for lasting relationships

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Brok McCarthy
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Pacific Defender 14-1, a security forces subject-matter expert exchange conducted as part of the U.S. Pacific Command's Theater Security Cooperation Program, concluded here Feb. 13.

The three-day event included 20 service members from the Australian, Malaysian, Indonesian and Philippine air forces.

During the exchange, attendees received tours of 36th and 736th Security Forces Squadron facilities, as well as other 36th Contingency Response Group facilities. They were also given briefings and exchanged ideas on topics ranging from threat identification to anti-terrorism and force protection measures.

"The Subject Matter Expert Exchanges (SMEE) was a way to enhance strong personal relationships and cooperation between the U.S. and our allies within the Asia-Pacific region," said Maj. Dennis Trutwin, 736th Security Forces Squadron commander.

Senior Master Sgt. Rick Schlachter, 736th SFS security forces manager, said those relationships are vital to future operations, allowing allies to know in advance during times of relative calm the strengths and capabilities possessed by each country.

"A large part of our core mission set revolves around interdependence with partner nation security forces to ensure contingency operations can proceed unhindered," he said. "This is true of both air base opening and humanitarian response operations. This subject-matter expert exchange allows us to bridge some of those gaps pre-emptively, so that once in the field, an established relationship and understanding of our shared capabilities can best be employed."

In addition to briefings and tours, attendees spent a day at the Pacific Regional Training Center's Commando Warrior program, which gave everyone a chance to see how the 36th CRG annually trains more than 1,500 Airmen prior to deployments.

"Tactics and procedures constantly change, but usually success or failure is driven by things like making sure you plan together properly, you coordinate properly and then have solid execution," said Royal Australian Air Force Wing Cmdr. John Leo, RAAF Air Command deputy director of security plans. "Pacific Defender gave us a chance to work together in a low-threat environment and form the interpersonal bonds necessary to make it easier to work together during actual operations."

Andersen has had several chances during the past three months to see how the relationships built during events like Pacific Defender can affect operations, just as they did during Exercise Cope North 2014 and several humanitarian relief efforts.

"The most valuable part of any SMEE (is) the contacts and relationships built that serve as a foundation of trust in future operations," Schlachter said. "These operations may occur during a crisis or emergency situation, such as Operation Damayan where we integrated with the Philippine Air Force to provide airlift capacity for the relief operation in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Having a foundation of understanding and trust allows us to rapidly integrate to provide coalition security, agile command and control, and airlift power projection."

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