International partnerships: AF coaches bolster international relations, readiness

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel
  • Air Force News Service
The fitness of international partnerships directly contributes to the nation’s global security, a member of the Air Force’s senior executive service said in her keynote address Sept. 15 at the 2014 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition here.

Heidi Grant, the deputy under secretary of the Air Force for international affairs, spoke to international military leaders, Airmen and industry leaders about ongoing Air Force efforts toward improving international military readiness and cooperation.

Grant likened international military readiness with long-distance running, asserting goals and a specific training plan are essential for sustainable success.

“As with a marathon, you've got to set the goal to run, but also have to have a plan to get there,” she said. “You need the right equipment and you can’t do it alone … you need a strong support system.”

To set goals for Air Force international relations, officials released the Air Force Global Partnership Strategy and engagement guidance in the air and space domain.

“Instead of being reactive, we need to be proactive and have a strategy,” Grant said. “ … We found, overall, there are three areas we’re looking at to build the fitness of our partnerships: One is (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), one is mobility, and the other is command and control.”

Similar to fitness coaches, Grant said select Air Force specialists are actively helping international partners improve their countries’ airpower capabilities.

“From regional and country specific experts, export policy experts, or military training and education specialists — no matter what your fitness level is, we have coaches that can talk to you about it,” Grant said. “So from those who are just getting into this international partnership to those, like our NATO allies who have been doing this for years and years, we have (a program) to assist them.”

This cooperation, however, depends on partnership nations’ assessment of their own needs, she reported.

“Only you know what your fitness level is and where you want to take it,” Grant said. “... These coaches can help you if you want to take our partnership and your fitness to the next level.”

Strength, she said, comes from exercises and joint military development, to include more than 1,200 international military students who train at military bases in the U.S., and 250 international service members attending professional development courses the U.S. military offers.

“We know we’re becoming stronger through these exercises, so that when the need arises … we’re stronger together,” she said. “ … It’s about how we come together and how we can have the capacity to go the distance to respond to humanitarian emergencies, conflict prevention or response.”

Endurance, likewise, is about going the distance together, she said, and manifests in various collaborations such as NATO’s Strategic Airlift Capability, which already allows for shared operation of C-17 Globemaster IIIs.

Finally, Grant said, readiness also requires flexibility for different environments and challenges that may not have a conclusive solution yet.

Not unlike finding the right running shoe for a runner, Grant said coalition partners also can receive help with finding and maintaining the right tools appropriate for their service’s mission.

“You need the right equipment -- for you, whether you are a beginner or advanced,” she said. “And we have coaches to talk you through all the different types of equipment available … for you to succeed and participate.”

Part of this process, she said, is also the planning for exportability and affordability of new gear during the acquisitions and planning process in order to include partner nations.

The success of international cooperation, Grant explained, was evident in August, when U.S.-trained Indian air force crews piloted American-made C-17s to lend humanitarian assistance after a landslide in Nepal. On another occasion, an international exchange Airman assisted Dutch C-130 Hercules crews using night vision equipment on a recent mission to Iraq.

Citing examples of improved worldwide military cooperation, from Africa to India, Grant said “there are good things happening and I’m looking forward to the year ahead and what else we can do together.”

Increased cooperation with international partners also continues on the space frontier, Grant noted.

“Space is so important none of our weapon systems are as capable without space — and we need to be careful,” she said. “Space is congested, contested and we need more people to help with paying attention to it.”

No matter the domain, Grant ultimately emphasized that no one succeeds alone.

“It takes someone good in every position of a game … together we can win this.”

As the deputy under secretary of the Air Force, international affairs, Grant provides oversight and guidance for international policy and programs supporting national security objectives through politico-military affairs; security assistance programs; technology and information disclosure; education and training; cooperative research and development; and attaché affairs.