Air Advisor Academy honors Yokota with first PACOM course
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The Air Force Air Advisor Academy instructed cultural preparation and engagement to a team of professional airlifters at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Jan. 14 - 18, making it the first time the academy has sent a mobility training team to train in the Pacific Command since the school began in May 2012.
The five-day course began with an overview of the vast and diverse PACOM mission and focused into a more Yokota-specific mission as the class progressed. The 36th Airlift Squadron hosted the class and provided the instructors with upcoming Yokota engagement opportunities -- Indonesia and Thailand.
The U.S. is moving forward by building partnerships since President Barack Obama outlined the need for alliances in the 2012 National Security Strategy. Because of this need, the AAA is continuing to grow and spread support throughout the Air Force.
According to Maj. Alex Richburg, U.S. Air Force AAA Division chief of Language, Region and Culture Studies, the U.S. focus shifted to the Pacific recently and has added extra weight to conducting these exercises and building partnerships. He said squadrons like the 36th AS are trying to do more in order to meet the requirements the president put emphasis on, and the AAA instructors came to Yokota to help the airlifters be more effective at what they do.
"We can strive to be the best airlifters in the world, but if we don't know how to effectively communicate and build relationships with our partner nations in the Pacific, then our airlift skills are being squandered," said Capt. Olin Johnson, 36th AS C-130 Hercules pilot.
Johnson said he and his squadron train to fly. They practice day-to-day to be professional airlifters, but lack training in cross-cultural affairs, and that is exactly where the course came into play.
"The Air Advisor course taught us essential skills for building partnerships and knowledge of cultural norms and how to effectively communicate with individuals from other cultures," Johnson added. "We may have the best intentions, but if we don't know how to communicate those intentions in a culturally-appropriate context, then we set ourselves up for embarrassment at best and failure at worst."
Air adviser skills are invaluable for anyone working hand-in-hand with partner nations, and according to Johnson, the course gave students the tools needed to communicate effectively.
"The training gave our mission commanders and key players both the skills and confidence to build relationships with our partners," he added. "Each class was useful and tailored to the specific needs of Yokota's role in PACOM."
The course taught Yokota members what their legal limits are as air adviser along with tactical skills. Richburg said his instruction taught the airlifters to be more effective in exercises they are already doing. Lessons included mission planning, execution and after action analysis; behavior in host countries; using embassy resources; surviving if things go bad and understanding culture.
The U.S. has advisers in 135 countries, which requires many Airmen to fill those roles.
"We try to take someone with knowledge of being an adviser and teach them exactly how to be effective," Richburg said. "It is not teaching aviation, but it is teaching aviation-related professionals how to interact and work with a foreign culture in an advisory role."
The AAA and its mobility course takes general-purpose forces -- people who are mature, experienced Airmen, typically between staff sergeant and colonel, who are tasked to work with foreign governments or militaries, usually at the host nation's request -- and train them to function as air advisers when collaborating with host nations. The instructors educate Airmen who are already proficient at their jobs to apply their job skills in a foreign country, government, military and other cultures.
"These Airmen are not traditionally advisers, but have exercise opportunities to be in an adviser role with host nations, and we are giving them some skills or tools to make them more effective at working with allies and influencing the region," Richburg said. "When we partner with nations, we are less likely to get into armed conflict, and it allows our partner nations to help us help them secure the region.
"We see people going to Afghanistan, Morocco and Egypt and they are applying this knowledge every day," he added. "Now we can see the same knowledge applied to the Pacific region."
When the course returns to Yokota to train more airlifters in the art of cultural engagement depends on the demand, Richburg said. He added that the 36th AS has already requested another course this year, so there is a great chance for more professional airlifters to train as air advisers.
"We are still growing and our primary concern is our in-residence class, but we put together small teams of instructors to go on the road and teach when needed," added Richburg.