PACAF commander speaks of enhancing partnerships

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein
  • Air Force Print News
Unlike European nations who have come together under NATO, the Pacific theater does not have a joint organization for defense and peacekeeping within its nations, said the Pacific Air Forces and Air Component commander here at the Air Force Association's annual Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition.

Gen. Paul Hester, PACAF commander, spoke with media at the conference about efforts to enhance partnership between the U.S. and Pacific nations.

"This has been a slow opening," he said of the rare windows of opportunity to work and train with countries such as China.

"We actually hosted the Chinese during a combat search and rescue exercise in Guam, and we were able to invite other countries as well, and let them see Andersen and what we do there," the general said. "Our hope is that they return the opportunity for us to visit with them."

He said that for the time being, CSAR exercises are the easiest way to unite the countries, as PACAF is located in "the ring of fire, in regards to natural disasters," he said.

"We have earthquakes, volcanoes, monsoons and we saw the effects of the tsunami in late 2004 and 2005. Those are situations that will most likely bring everyone together into international waters."

PACAF's primary mission is to provide ready air and space power to promote U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region during peacetime and war. It's one of the largest commands, with about 45,000 military and civilian personnel serving in nine major locations, ranging from Alaska to Hawaii to South Korea. Working over such an expansive area of the globe and with vastly different cultures and nations has proven challenging, but worthwhile.

"We've been able to develop positive relationships with the people in Guam, Singapore, South Korea and other countries in that area, and we're still looking to invite more to join us," he said.

"Over in Europe, NATO has, since after World War II, agreed to come together for self-defense, to continue the conversations even when they don't agree, and we're still looking for ways to do that as well in the Pacific -- for people to come together in a non-threatening way for other nations to do business together."