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Building partnerships: US, Bangladesh Air Forces conduct tactical airlift exercise

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (AFNS) -- Airmen with the 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan, and the Bangladesh Air Force participated in exercise Cope South 20, Feb. 1- 6, at BAF Kurmitola Cantonment, Dhaka, and Operating Location-Alpha, Sylhet, Bangladesh, for a Pacific Air Forces-sponsored, bilateral tactical airlift exercise.

More than 60 U.S. Airmen along with two U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron joined 100 Bangladesh air force service members and three Bangladeshi C-130s for the exercise.

The exercise focused on improving interoperability with the Bangladesh air force and supporting the armed forces of Bangladesh’s long-term modernization efforts to maintain regional stability. This was done by conducting flight operations, to include aircraft generation and recovery, day and night low-level navigation, tactical airdrop and air-land missions, as well as subject-matter expert exchanges in the operations, maintenance and rigging career fields.

The exercise benefits both country’s militaries by improving integration and by providing service members experience working with varied capabilities and cultures.

“The size of our Air Force, the technology we employ and the operations we have participated in over the years have translated to a lot of knowledge that can be an asset to other countries,” said Maj. Brandon Horii, PACAF country director for Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. “However, it’s not a one-way street. We gain as much as we give from our counterparts in Cope South.”

According to Horii, participating in exercises like CS20 helps the U.S. become a better global force.

“This is especially relevant for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in South Asia,” he said. “In the past few decades, this region has seen major earthquakes, tsunamis and refugee crises. It’s important we exercise with regional partners so we can respond quickly and work seamlessly together when the need arises.”

Bangladesh airmen are more familiar with operating in weather conditions that, according to the Asian Disaster Reduction Center, includes a hot, muggy summer from March to June; a rainy monsoon season from June to November; and a warm, hot, dry winter from December to March.

“They’re more familiar with operating (military) equipment in their region,” Horii added. “As such, the expertise they share with us goes a long way to making us better Airmen.”

According to the ADRC website, Bangladesh has a long history of natural disasters. Between 1980 and 2008, it experienced 219 natural disasters. The geographic location, land characteristics, the number of rivers and the monsoon climate render Bangladesh highly vulnerable to natural hazards. The country suffers from floods, cyclones, storm surge, riverbank erosion, earthquake, drought, salinity intrusion, fire and tsunamis.

“Working with the Bangladesh air force is not merely about their central location in the Bay of Bengal. It is also more and more about the capabilities and skills they bring to the table,” Horii said. “In short, the Bangladesh air force enhances our ability to operate by improving interoperability for when we need to work together to respond to events like natural disasters.”

In a joint statement released on June 11, 2019, by the U.S. Department of State, the two governments reaffirmed their commitment to enduring partnership, highlighting close cooperation on security, development, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and counterterrorism. The two government’s also agreed to continue to cooperate closely to advance a shared vision of a free and open, inclusive, peaceful and secure Indo-Pacific region.

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