Partnership extends beyond the battlefield

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Voss
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Building Partnerships, one of the Air Force's 12 core functions, refers to the importance of U.S. servicemembers working hand-and-hand with our allies to build a lasting cooperation for the future. Often BP is enhanced through joint exercises, where allied countries learn how each other's service operates and how they can work together.

But one community within the U.S. Air Force is building those BP relationships in the sandy foothills of Afghanistan for today's Operation Enduring Freedom and whatever may lie ahead.

Recently, members of the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron here hosted soldiers from the Republic of Korea Army for an exchange of information.

In the Pedros' small conference room, more than 30 officers and enlisted members of the ROK Army gathered to hear briefings on how 83rd EQRS crews and pararescuemen operate what kind of equipment they use to perform their one-of-a-kind mission.

Although the ROK does not currently have a formal rescue squadron like the 83rd EQRS, both share similarities. For instance, they both fly versions of the Sikorsky S-70, and both have a responsibility as rotary units in the Afghanistan to perform battlefield recoveries if called upon.

"Today the Koreans and the Americans engaged to share ideas about helicopter operations in Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. Steve Gregg, commander of the 83rd ERQS deployed from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England. "It was a spectacular day, the Koreans were excited, and our officers learned how to communicate and share ideas with our allies--every time we engage with our allies it is a two-way street."

Hopes are high within the ROK of one day manning their own squadron similar to the Pedros, but until that day, communication like this enhance the interoperability of today.

"I briefed them on general overview on the U.S. Air Force HH-60 and personnel recovery," said Capt. Marisa Catlin, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and Pedros HH-60 flight lead. "I hope that our brief brings up questions in their mind if they are caught in a situation that they need our assistance, like is it safe for a rescue mission to land there, what is the condition of the survivor, because it helps us determine how we are going to recover a survivor."

As the meeting moved toward an end, the two parties also got a chance to talk about near future plans to move maintenance to nearby buildings.

"We showed them our maintenance capability, our test equipment, parts, supplies and how we keep accountability of those supplies and which is really important, because they often come by and need parts or check out tools, which they don't have," said Maj. Taona Enriquez, 56th Expeditionary Helicopter Maintenance Unit officer in charge, deployed from the 48th FW at RAF Lakenheath, England. "If they need help, we help each other...we have a really good relationship."

The two groups of servicemembers from different nations represent how building partnership capacity can enable not only current but possible future operations.

"Is BP and the relationship within the rotary wing community working? Absolutely," said Major Enriquez. "We are in heaven here, because we work hand and hand with the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade. Immediately upon arrival the ROK has assisted us both with their technical expertise and with parts while troubleshooting a persistent de-icing problem. They have a plethora of parts and experience of which we have been able to capitalize on. We in turn have been able to assist the Korean's by providing consumable items from our support section and technical assistance. It's the airframe, the helicopter that ties us all together."

The relationships forged are often the most important outcome from exchanges of information such as this. These partnerships extend far beyond six months, a year or even the current conflict, according to Major Enriquez. Some of these relationships will help shape the world of tomorrow.

"The mere presence of the Koreans in this coalition is huge," said Major Enriquez. "Their support alone is bigger than any gun they could put on the battlefield or any amount of hours they could fly. As we progress through the years and toward the draw-down of Operation Enduring Freedom, the ties we form diplomatically by working together, bind us. We have to build partnerships with the people and with our allies; we would fail without them."