JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
Hawaii Air National Guard air defense experts recently completed a Subject Matter Expert Exchange[SMEE] with counterparts from the Philippine Air Force [PAF], marking the fifth straight year the HIANG has partnered with the PAF to exchange ideas on air defense as the Southeast Asian country goes through a military modernization effort.
The exchanges took place during the months of August and September and began with HIANG airmen traveling to several locations in the Philippines to discuss various air security concepts with the PAF.
While there, HIANG airmen interacted with various levels of the rank and file of the PAF: from airmen just beginning their military careers to senior leaders from some of the highest levels of the PAF organization.
For the first time since the exchanges have been taking place, Brig. Gen. Gregory S. Woodrow, commander, 154th Wing was a part of the in-country team to lend some general officer expertise and credence.
“We (United States) work hard to strengthen our alliances throughout the pacific,” said Woodrow. “The best way to do that is to pursue relations at the personal level as we educate and encourage each of our allies in their quest for better defense.”
According to Maj. Colin Yoshimitsu, a mission crew commander with the 169th Air Defense Squadron and engagement planner for the SMEE, having the general officers of the two Air Forces meet during the exchanges represents a leap forward and a maturing of the relationship.
“The program has evolved in that our senior leadership have volunteered to be more engaged with the leaders of the Philippine Air Force. Ultimately, we need the support of leadership on both sides for both organizations to move forward.” Yoshimitsu said.
The SMEE was part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program [SPP] which links a state's National Guard with the armed forces or equivalent of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.
As the partnership progressed through the five years of engagements, so has the level of interaction and topics of discussion.
“Our partnerships has evolved and has grown with new objectives throughout the years,” said Yoshimitsu. “We began our first year of the basic mission of the Hawaii Air National Guard and the Operation Noble Eagle mission we accomplish at the 169th Air Defense Squadron. In subsequent years we have expanded the SMEE to include focus on training, procedures, checklists, maintainers, and flight medicine.”
The exchanges involved table top discussions, question and answer sessions as well tours and surveys of the varying components that make up an air defense system.
While visiting Clark Air Base, the HIANG team took in a tour of the PAF’s FA-50 Light Attack Aircraft. The FA-50 is a hallmark of the Philippine Armed Forces moderation efforts.
“As the Air Defense Command of the Philippine Air Force focuses on their upgrade and modernize their new air defense system, the HIANG team has centered the Subject Matter Expert Exchanges from the tactical arena to the operational and strategic.” Yoshimitsu said.
Tours and exchanges were not geographically exclusive to the Philippines. PAF personnel were also able to tour HIANG operations when the SMEE moved to Hawaii.
“The state partnership program really grows out of an alliance that we have with the Philippine Air Force and it’s symbolic of our strong relationship across the Pacific.” Woodrow said.