ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNS)
After spending more than a week sharing civil engineering techniques, 54 engineers from the U.S. Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force, South Korean air force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force concluded the Partner Nation Silver Flag exercise Feb. 19 at Andersen Air Force Base.
The event was the first time partner nations were presented the opportunity to travel to Guam to trade engineering practices with each other and the U.S. Air Force. Previously, Silver Flag primarily consisted of U.S. Airmen, ranging from 120-130 trainees.
“This is the first Partner Nation Silver Flag that we have done; that’s what makes this so special,” said Master Sgt. Michael English, the 554th RED HORSE Squadron acting Silver Flag flight superintendent. “We were able to bring four of our closest allies and partners together to train and build the partnerships we need in the event that we need to call on each other for battle.”
Silver Flag is a U.S. Pacific Command multilateral subject matter expert exchange led by engineers from the 554th RED HORSE Squadron. The exercise is designed to build partnerships and promote interoperability through the equitable exchange of civil engineer related information.
The contingency environment training focused on bare-base bed down, sustainment operations and recovery after attack.
After the kickoff of Partner Nation Silver Flag, students divided into groups based on their specialties, which included command and control, electrical, power production, heavy repair and emergency management.
As the week progressed, engineers trained on properly performing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear procedures and set up a mobile aircraft arresting system, emergency airfield lighting system and high voltage power generation and distribution systems.
“The training from the (U.S. Air Force) was great, along with working with the JASDF, (South Korean air force) and RSAF and learning their techniques,” said RAAF Cpl. Michael Breen, a plumber. “The camaraderie between all of the nations was fantastic.”
One of the more satisfying parts of the exercise was watching participants who didn’t have CBRN experience, learn it and then turn around and share it with others.
“What surprised me the most was when I found out I was given students who were not disciplined in the career field, (individuals, who) had no background in CBRN operations,” English said. “When we came together at the end of the week, they were very knowledgeable. They were actually teaching some of the command and control student’s techniques that I shared with them. That definitely surprised me, but I was happy to see that.”
For many of the students, this was their first time training with other nations and for some, leaving the country.
“This was my first time going overseas for training, but these opportunities don’t come very often,” said South Korean air force Master Sgt. Park Cheong-hae, an airfield lighting specialist. “Although I was nervous, I was very happy I was able to get this great opportunity for training.”
On the final day of the event, the trainees displayed what they learned throughout the week by conducting one final exercise.
Due to the multiple nations speaking different languages, several translators were selected throughout Pacific Air Forces to alleviate the confusion between languages.
One of the translators was U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Hyojin Kim, a 392nd Intelligence Squadron cryptologic linguist from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, who translated English into both Korean and Japanese for South Korean air force and JASDF students.
“There are many times when there is a communications breakdown because of a language barrier,” Kim said. “Interpreters are very important, because they bridge that gap, allowing seamless communication and understanding between the people.”
With the help from the translators and communication via gestures, the training gradually became smoother for the participants. By the end of the week, some cadre didn’t require translators as much as they did at beginning of the Partner Nation Silver Flag.