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US, Philippine airmen talks aim to enhance interoperability

Maj. Gen. Conrado V. Parra, Jr., Philippine Air Force vice commander, left, Maj. Gen. Mark Dillon, center, Pacific Air Forces vice commander and Col. Fermin M. Carangan, Philippine Air Force assistant chief of air staff for operations, participate in briefings  during the fifth annual U.S. and Philippine Airman-to-Airman Talks at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 30, 2016.  The goals of the three-day conference were synchronizing planning between the U.S. Air Force and Philippine Air Force, shaping engagement priorities, strengthening the bilateral relationship with the PAF and focusing on a 3 to 5 year outlook for PACAF-PAF activities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kamaile O. Chan)

Maj. Gen. Conrado V. Parra Jr., the Philippine Air Force vice commander, left, Maj. Gen. Mark Dillon, the Pacific Air Forces vice commander, and Col. Fermin M. Carangan, the Philippine Air Force assistant chief of air staff for operations, participate in briefings during the fifth annual U.S. and Philippine Airman-to-Airman Talks at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 30, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kamaile O. Chan)

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (AFNS) -- The ability of multinational militaries to work, train and fight alongside each other is vital within the dynamic security environment of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the Philippine Air Force vice commander told U.S. military members during a recent conference here.

“The U.S. military is a comforting and reassuring presence,” Maj. Gen. Conrado Parra Jr. said at the fifth annual U.S.-Philippines Airman-to-Airman (A2A) talks held Aug. 29-31.

The A2A talks are designed to not only foster military-to-military relationships with allied forces, but also to pave the way for future collaboration.

Parra led a delegation of eight Filipino airmen who met with Maj. Gen. Mark Dillon, the Pacific Air Forces vice commander, and 24 PACAF Airmen, Marine Corps Forces Pacific and Hawaii Army National Guard personnel to discuss the way ahead for military cooperation between their two air forces.

The goals of the three-day conference were synchronizing planning between the U.S. Air Force and Philippine Air Force, shaping engagement priorities, strengthening the bilateral relationship with the PAF, and focusing on a three- to five-year outlook for PACAF-PAF activities.

“These talks help to determine activities that will help bridge the gap between the two air forces,” Parra said. “We are here to discuss our primary concerns regarding recent security developments in the East Asia Sea, and our hope is that this will be a fruitful engagement for us.”

In recent years, military cooperation between both countries has expanded to include the Philippines hosting U.S. Pacific Command and PACAF exercises like Balikatan and Pacific Angel, and supporting the Pacific Air Chief Conference, the Pacific Rim Airpower Symposium and the Pacific Airlift Rally. Additionally, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his Filipino counterpart, Voltaire Gazmin, announced in April that the Philippines will host U.S. military missions to increase U.S.-Philippines security cooperation.

One of those missions included PACOM directing PACAF to stand up an air contingent at Clark Air Base, Philippines, in April to set the foundation for joint air patrols that complement ongoing joint maritime patrols between the two countries. The purpose of the air contingent is to provide credible combat forces capable of a variety of missions including force projection, air and maritime domain awareness, personnel recovery, combating piracy and assuring access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law.

The contingent also provides opportunities to expand cooperation and interoperability with Philippine counterparts and reassure partners and allies of the United States’ steadfast commitments in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. To date, the Philippines have hosted two iterations of air contingents, including A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and HH-60G Pave Hawks in April, and Navy EF-18 Growlers in June.

Both nations recently signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which, like the air contingent, demonstrates U.S. commitment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific by establishing a mutually beneficial agreement that provides rapid humanitarian assistance and helps build capacity for the Philippines armed forces.

Many of these key engagements have been successful and talks such as these further enable PACAF and PAF leaders to streamline the tactics, techniques and procedures that are shared between the two countries, strengthening the U.S.-Philippine bilateral relationship.

“Our two air forces have accomplished a lot of great training,” Dillon said. “Our goal during these talks is to continue the momentum by strengthening and thickening the relationship between the two air forces by building on the successes of the past with a solid roadmap for the future.”

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