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Building friendships, partnerships in the Pacific

Gen. Lori Robinson, the Pacific Air Forces commander, speaks to attendees during the Air Force Association's Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C., Sept. 14, 2015. Robinson stressed the importance of building partnerships to enhance stability in the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Stanfield)

Gen. Lori Robinson, the Pacific Air Forces commander, speaks to attendees during the Air Force Association's Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C., Sept. 14, 2015. Robinson stressed the importance of building partnerships to enhance stability in the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Stanfield)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Gen. Lori Robinson, the Pacific Air Forces commander, emphasized the importance of multinational partnerships throughout the Pacific region as the key to stabilization and continuing progress during a speech she made at the 2015 Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 14.

“We have great friends in the Pacific,” Robinson said. The Pacific region accounts for 60 percent of the world’s population and four of eight of the world’s largest missile arsenals, “which is why it’s incredibly important to have friends.”

Natural disasters are common in the region, making humanitarian missions a large part of PACAF’s mission set.

“The one thing that’s apparent each and every day is natural disasters,” Robinson said. “In the past 10 years, over 2.4 billion people have been affected by natural disasters. One of the things we do great training with is humanitarian assistance and disaster response. It’s a great opportunity for us to work together and train together.”

She also discussed the challenges the command faces, adding to the importance of our friends in the region. Among those are China, which has reclaimed more than 3,000 acres on reefs in the South China Seas and built a 10,000-foot runway on one of them, as well as the rapidly decreasing capability and technology gap. Fiscal challenges add to the command's concerns.

"With sequestration and continuing resolution, our ability for long-term planning is gone," she said. "Our ability for stability is gone."

For Robinson, the way forward is through what she calls the “four P’s: presence, partnership, power projection and people.”

The Air Force’s presence is all over the Pacific, and partnerships are made through that presence. She said it can be as small as one Airman serving as an attaché, or an entire base or large-scale exercise. Some of the large exercises that bring the region together, like Pacific Angel, Talisman Sabre and Red Flag: Alaska, open doors and build the partnerships necessary to power project whenever necessary.

“That ability to build presence and partnerships that allows us to power project is a force multiplier,” Robinson said. “It gives us the opportunity in peace to work together so when we should be asked, we know how to do it.”

While that power projection built on the partnerships created through presence is important, she said none of it can be accomplished without the PACAF Airmen who perform the mission every day and are ambassadors in every country.

“There are amazing Airmen and their families out there,” she said. “It is all about our Airmen and their families. I always say the command’s success is the Airmen’s success, and their families. Without them, I’m just somebody waving stuff around.”

This year’s Pacific Angel exercise was the largest yet, and the friendships created there helped enhance the aid provided to Nepal after the devastating earthquake in April, she said. The multinational forces working together see familiar faces and help communities where they’ve already been, and people they’ve already met.

She invited the air chiefs from several Pacific nations to join her on stage as her friends in the region.

“I’ve had the privilege to see amazing Airmen, not just (in the) United States, but airmen all around the Pacific. It starts with people,” Robinson said.

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