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Global air chiefs gather for conference

by Capt. Andre Kok
Global Air Chiefs Conference Public Affairs

9/25/2007 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Top leaders from air forces around the globe gathered Sept. 24 to discuss airpower issues during the Global Air Chiefs Conference Forum held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington.

Keynote speaker retired Gen. Joseph W. Ralston asked audience members, "Why is it that Airmen do not have a voice in the national security debate equivalent to the impact of airpower?"

The former U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander NATO suggested that perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Airmen are often regarded as technicians, yearning to practice their craft of flying, while begrudging development into management positions. 

Providing a possible solution to the problem, he shared ideas on aspects of officer development, including international exchange programs, partnerships and balancing professional and technical education. He challenged the air chiefs to aim for that balance, with a hopeful result of Airmen who have a voice in their country's national security situation. 

Many nations in western Africa already work together and pool resources to attain their security objectives, said Ghana Air Vice Marshall Julius Boateng, the Ghana air chief. He reported on airpower in western Africa from Ghana's viewpoint. 

Air Vice Marshall Boateng identified security challenges unique to the region, including porous borders, social and political unrest, armed conflict, failed states and natural disasters. 

"These challenges can lead to the presence of terrorism," he said. 

To combat these challenges, air forces must work toward greater interoperability, the general said. Standardizing equipment, training and procedures could go a long way toward this goal, he said, citing partnerships already in place with the U.S. Air Force. 

"Many African air forces already enjoy a close relationship with the U.S. Air Force," Air Vice Marshall Boateng said. "We need to work to strengthen those partnerships now." 

Maj. Genm Mohammed Bin Swaiden, the air force and air defense commander from the United Arab Emirates, also focused on the importance of relationships and interoperability. 

"Interoperability is a vital enabler of combat effectiveness," he said. 

The general discussed the need for cooperation in the realms of data, equipment, systems and operations. 

Such partnering makes information a valuable commodity, he said. As such, "it is important that air forces protect the information networks in the same way they protect their bases." 

General Bin Swaiden shared stories of success in his country's air force, crediting the partnerships with other air forces around the world, including the United States, as a major component of their success. 

Sharing information is key, the general said, but "the most important coalition ingredients are trust and respect." 

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