By Maj. Marnee Losurdo
/ Published September 19, 2017
SRI LANKA AIR FORCE BASE, KATUNAYAKE, Sri Lanka (AFNS) -- The destructive power of Mother Nature has made headlines around the world, and every country is fighting its own war when it comes to natural disasters and humanitarian relief.
To prepare for such events in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. Pacific Air Force and Sri Lanka Air Force co-hosted the Pacific Airlift Rally 2017, in Sri Lanka Sept. 11-15, 2017.
Pacific Airlift Rally is a biennial exercise bringing nations together for a command post and flying training exercise focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. A C-130J Super Hercules from the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 815th Airlift Squadron, Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, and a C-130J from the 327th Airlift Squadron, Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, as well as 75 U.S. Air Force personnel participated in the event, along with 12 other countries.
“The fostering of learning and friendship that is gained from these events will hopefully promote into the real world if something unfortunate happens to these countries,” said Adam Vasilj, Australian Air Force squadron leader and deputy coalition commander for the command post exercise at Jetwing Blue, Negombo. “Everyone will be in a position to help each other because they have already gained friendships from working in a simulated environment.”
Since 1995, weather related disasters caused 600,000 deaths, injured 4.1 billion people and brought trillions of dollars in damage around the world, according to a 2015 United Nations report. The Indo-Asia-Pacific region is home to 60 percent of the world’s population across 53 percent of the Earth, so the majority of the world’s natural disasters often occur within the PACAF area of responsibility.
This year’s command post exercise scenario involved a cyclone hitting the East Coast of Sri Lanka causing significant damage to infrastructure.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Dominic Barberi, 815th AS pilot and mission commander, took part in this event.
“In the scenario we simulated the steps you take in a disaster relief and humanitarian assistance operation to bring about effective relief to the people,” he said. “It included logistics such as mission planning, where to stage aircraft, and how to bolster the infrastructure to effectively aid people.”
On Sept. 12, 2017, PAR17 also included a medical Subject Matter Expert Exchange focused on post-disaster medical relief and a civil engineering SMEE that covered the capabilities of the regional forces to address civil engineering issues.
Meanwhile, on the flight line, maintainers from the 803rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Keesler AFB, and 913th AMXS, Little Rock AFB, ensured aircraft were mission ready to fly with the Sri Lanka Air Force for the flying training exercise. This portion included air-land and airdrop operations at Sri Lanka AFB Katunayaka and Sri Lanka Air Force Station Ampara, according to U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Brett Keely, 803rd AMXS production superintendent.
Overall exercise commander, Sri Lanka Air Force Air Vice Marshal Prasanna Payoe, stressed the significance of working together during his opening comments at the command post exercise.
“Most of you who are here are first responders to such large scale disasters,” Payoe said. “That is precisely why this exercise is of paramount importance.”
Punishment by nature does not know race, class, or national boundaries, he said to a group consisting of members from the U.S., Indonesia, Bangladesh, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Australia and Vietnam.
“It serves us all the same…this is why we need to unite as one,” said Payou.