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International air chiefs to meet in Washington

by Senior Master Sgt. Matt Proietti
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

9/20/2007 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- The Air Force chief of staff will host representatives of more than 90 international air forces during the third Global Air Chiefs Conference here Sept. 21 to 28.

The gathering provides a forum where defense leaders from the nations can develop personal relationships while talking about issues of mutual interest, said Bruce S. Lemkin, the Air Force deputy under secretary for international affairs.

"The relationship between air chiefs is critical to our ability to conduct global operations," Mr. Lemkin said. "This is an invaluable opportunity for Gen. T. Michael Moseley to develop that air chief-to-air chief relationship, and he can do it all in one place in one week."

For three of the days, the event runs concurrently with the Air Force Association's Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition.

The first Global Air Chiefs Conference was hosted in 1997 by then-Chief of Staff Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman in Las Vegas and coincided with the Air Force's 50th anniversary. The second was hosted in 2003 by then-Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper in Washington, D.C., and honored the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight.

The conference is about building global relationships, Air Force partnerships and securing a better world, General Moseley said.

"Our nations are engaged in a worldwide conflict," he said. "This requires greater partnering internationally to defeat threats to our way of life. We (also) share in cooperative efforts including medical assistance and humanitarian missions, as well as search, rescue and recovery efforts."

The Air Force, as the world's greatest air power, has a role to lead and to engage with other air forces around the world, Mr. Lemkin said.

"On its most basic level, it's about flying together, operating together (and) training together so, if we have to, we can fight together," he said. "We all have our own national interests, but we find that we have much more in common than we have different."

The conference will feature meetings of air chiefs from specific regions, including the Americas, the Middle East, the Pacific and NATO countries. Top Air Force commanders from those areas will coordinate those sessions.

"You have chiefs of very sophisticated air forces with a broad spectrum of capabilities and you have chiefs of air forces that have very limited capabilities, and everything in between," Mr. Lemkin said. Modern military operations require a united effort.

"We need friends and partners with the capabilities to take care of their own security and stability in their regions and, through the relationship, the interoperability and the will to join us in coalitions when appropriate," he said. 

The conference presents an opportunity for Air Force leaders to make the case to international air chiefs about the benefits of operating the same aircraft and equipment the U.S. does. Mr. Lemkin said more than 4,000 F-16 Fighting Falcons are in operation in 24 nations around the world, creating "the foundation of a relationship that is absolutely invaluable."

Air Force leaders will speak about the future of unmanned aerial systems and the joint cargo aircraft program they are pursuing to obtain smaller airlifters to accomplish intratheater missions on unimproved runways. An international JCA program is planned that the Air Force will run, Mr. Lemkin said.

"When I talk to air chiefs around the world, almost without exception every one says, 'I need that capability,'" he said.

The conference will include discussions about the Air Force's natural disaster relief capabilities, which spread goodwill, such as when U.S. airlifters delivered relief supplies to Pakistan following an earthquake in October 2005.

"The Pakistani air chief told me that the sight of U.S. Air Force aircraft and Airmen delivering supplies and relief did more to foster the positive image of the United States (there) than anything else we had done," Mr. Lemkin said.

The conference provides General Moseley a chance to talk about how air power contributes to the fight against terrorism, Mr. Lemkin said.

"It has been uniquely effective, but you don't see a lot in the press about it. You don't see all of the aircraft and the coordinated operations (in which) they are being used to support troops on the ground and the very precise way they are taking out targets with very minimum collateral damage," he said.

The air chiefs' meeting will also showcase the talents of Airmen, Mr. Lemkin said.

"It's important for other air chiefs to see the high quality and high standards of our Airmen," he said. "Everybody who does is impressed." 

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