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Lt. Gen. Stephen Hoog, Alaskan Command commander, speaks with an executive observer during a flightline tour for this years Red Flag-Alaska Executive Observer Program June 15, 2012, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. General Gary North, Pacific Air Forces commander, and Hoog hosted this years program. During the program, North, as well as several executive observers, participated in presentations and discussions on how the U.S. Air Force integrates and synchronizes service capabilities, resources and effects to meet national challenges. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cynthia Spalding)
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Executive Observer Program builds international partnerships

Posted 7/5/2012   Updated 7/5/2012 Email story   Print story


by Air Force Staff Sgt. Cynthia Spalding
JBER Public Affairs

7/5/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Fourteen senior air power leaders from the global community joined Pacific Air Forces leaders for the premier multi-national large force employment exercise while building partnerships June 15.

The hosts of this year's Red Flag-Alaska Executive Observer Program were Gen. Gary North, commander Pacific Air Forces, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Steve Hoog, commander Alaskan Command.

During the program, North, as well as several executive observers, participated in presentations and discussions on how the Air Force integrates and synchronizes service capabilities, resources, and effects to meet national challenges. All participants spent a great deal of time learning about each other and developing professional relationships with one another.

"One of the things we've discovered by having this program, is that you can have all the organizational charts in the world, but if you pick up the phone and you know the person on the other end when it comes time to plan a contingency tsunami relief effort or another operation, it makes all the difference in the world," Hoog said.

There are no lines in the sky when it comes to shaping up the battlefield. In Alaska, there is a vast amount of open space and there needs to be a plan.

"With air forces, you don't have the option of saying 'this is my side of the line and this is your side,' you have to be able to integrate from day one," Hoog said. "So when we invite countries from around the Pacific to fly with us in Red Flag-Alaska, it allows us to practice flying together versus flying separately."

Red Flag-Alaska is a series of PACAF commander-directed field training exercises. It provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment. This training takes place in an area known as the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex. Air Force Brig. Gen. James N. Post III, 354th Fighter Wing commander, presented the observers with a Red Flag-Alaska overview and the observers had an opportunity to tour the Red Flag-Alaska operations building while here on JBER.

"The big thing that JPARC has is the opportunity for us to do large-scale combined air training with our allies," Hoog said. "The airspace that we have to work with is really second to none."

According to Hoog, Red Flag-Alaska and EOP is an investment in the future. The strength built between allies allows better focus and a more strategic game plan in the air. Inviting a country is more than sending a simple invitation; it is about gaining trust and building partnerships with a multi-national force so everyone can train and work together. Airmen from all over the world don't just participate to fly with the United States, but also to fly with other countries from around the globe.

This was the 10th anniversary of the EOP program which has been conducted in Alaska annually since 2003. The EOP Program Manager, Karl von Luhrte emphasized ,although the majority of the international participants are from Pacific nations, it includes senior airpower leaders from around the world.

"Using the common bond as airmen, EOP provides the opportunity to share and discuss similar challenges," von Luhrte said. "It also provides a mechanism to discuss more formal Red Flag exercise participation in the future, which in some cases might be a multi-year plan of up to three years."

Having other countries' senior leaders come together to learn how other forces work can help develop plans and ideas on how to work together and create alliances. This type of meet and greet is what helps our nations fight wars and natural disasters by building friendships with military leaders all over the world.

Friendship is key. Hoog referenced Dr. Stephen Covey when explaining how the speed of trust is the best investment you can get; when you can trust the people you work with side-by-side, more than anything else.

"The best thing about a conference like this is that you get to meet people from different countries and you develop friendships and trust," Hoog said. "If you have the speed of trust, then you start with the position of 'Yes, how can we make this happen?' versus 'What is it you are trying to do?' Having a good, trusting relationship between two countries is critical."

During EOP, leaders worked together and shared experiences that provided a unique bond. One day that bond may be the key to resolving a crisis or to remove barriers from the execution of a mission.

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