Indo-Pacific allies, partners attend Senior Enlisted Leader International Summit

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Gena Armstrong
  • Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

Representatives from eight Indo-Pacific ally and partner nations attended the largest international Department of the Air Force engagement, Senior Enlisted Leader International Summit, or SELIS, in Arlington, Aug. 1–5.

Hosted by Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass, SELIS focused on people, readiness and culture through connections between allies and partners. In all, the summit attracted more than 80 senior enlisted leaders representing 62 nations and NATO Allied Air Command.

Chief Master Sgt. David R. Wolfe, U.S. Pacific Air Forces command chief, explained “integrated deterrence needs partners with highly functional interoperability. That must happen within the enlisted force. Gatherings like this help form mutually understood standards to develop our Airmen and ensure all of the Indo-Pacific allies and partners are ready and relevant in the face of increasing threats.”

“It is the relationships and partnerships with you all that is our most strategic advantage in a high-end fight," Bass said.

Cara Abercrombie, from the National Security Council, further emphasized the necessity of strong partnerships.

“In the face of our growing security challenges, we need to think about how we cooperate,” Abercrombie said. “Knowing who to call in a crisis or for an opportunity with sharing the threat assessment picture.”

For PACAF, developments throughout the region solidify the resolve of Indo-Pacific allies and partners to prepare their enlisted forces for a dynamically changing security environment.

“This was a great introduction for new partnerships,” said Warrant Officer of the Royal New Zealand Air Force Kerry Williams. “It allows us to see how we all work, so that no matter how far we are from the fight, we know how each partner can contribute.”

Military Expert 6 See Lye Ng, Republic of Singapore Air Force command chief, explained, “We all bring our own perspectives and challenges that are good references to integrate into each other’s systems to better work together.”

The representatives from Indo-Pacific nations in attendance characterized long-standing relationships with allies and more recent partnerships expanding each participant’s network of contacts on a global scale.

“This summit was a great opportunity to create a pipeline between so many people,” reflected Warrant Officer Kai Osamu, Japan Air Self Defense Force senior enlisted advisor. “It is mutually beneficial to strengthen our partnerships and build relationships.”

The Royal Australian Air Force’s Warrant Officer of the Air Force Fiona Grasby appreciated the strategic nature of focusing the summit on the education and training of the enlisted force.

“We need to consider the current climate and focus our energy to be more ready and prepared,” Grasby explained. “We will use the lessons learned to ensure we look at opportunities to increase the interoperability of our most junior-level aviators with our allies and partners.”

For some nations’ representatives, SELIS presentations and the lessons learned through networking demonstrated improvements they could take back to improve their armed forces.

“This is my first time coming together with other global air forces,” said Mongolian Armed Forces Sgt. Maj. Namjildorj Battumur of the Air Force Command. “It is very effective for building partnerships and we no doubt need to increase our partnership programs.”

While all participants emphasized the partnership building aspect, others were also excited to showcase what they, personally, had to offer.

“Next year I hope more [females from my country] come [to SELIS],” said Royal Thai Air Force Flight Sgt. 1st Class Khanittha Thongkham, the first female from her service to attend SELIS. “Through events like this, I want to improve our service and demonstrate women can be leaders — that females and males can serve equally in all positions.”

In addition to SELIS and other engagements, PACAF Airmen participate in up to 40 major exercises a year alongside nations throughout the region, and there is a robust subject matter expert exchange program in place to strengthen interoperability across the theater.

“Our relationships are solid, regardless of how long we’ve been working together,” Wolfe stressed. “We are committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific and aggressively plan, train, and practice alongside our allies and partners in a variety of venues.”

The networking and collaboration between the 62 nations and NATO Allied Air Command at SELIS and through routine engagements better postured everyone for the global security environment.

“Teamwork is number one,” explained Philippine Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Roy Sabado. “We need to see the challenges others go through and learn from their spirit of resiliency and agility because changes will always come. When it happens to your friend, it can happen to you.”