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Military

USAFE Airmen retool to enhance tradition of Building Partnerships

by Maj. Robert Firman
U.S. Air Forces in Europe

12/29/2009 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- The Airmen of U.S. Air Forces in Europe are charting new territory in tackling one of the Air Force's newest core functions: Building Partnerships.

The lesson that international partnerships are essential to success in war and peace is not new. The Office of the Secretary of Defense directed U.S. European Command to develop a theater campaign plan which explicitly places Building Partnerships at the forefront of U.S. military strategy.

To support the combatant commander, USAFE also developed a strategy that includes building partner capacity and cooperative relationships as priority focus areas on par with combating terrorism and force modernization.

The Air Force leaders also recently elevated Building Partnerships to one of the service's 12 core functions, joining traditional ones such as Rapid Global Mobility and Air Superiority. Access the Air Force 2009 Posture Statement at www.posturestatement.af.mil to learn more.

"Working with our allies and partners is absolutely central to what we do in USAFE," said Gen. Roger A. Brady, the USAFE commander. "Clearly there are many benefits to these strong relationships, but perhaps the biggest is having interoperable partners that can join us in future conflicts or perhaps help prevent future conflicts altogether."

One of the steps USAFE headquarters took to support the new emphasis on Building Partnerships was to retool its International Relations Division to make its efforts more effective. Now called the Building Partnerships Division, it contains a new unit, the Building Partnerships Operations Branch, which, for the first time, takes a programmatic look at the wide spectrum of activities that are called Building Partnerships.

The Building Partnerships Operations Branch's new team of people, known as Building Partnerships strategists, work alongside traditional country desk officers. While desk officers focus on relationships with individual countries in the EUCOM area of responsibility, strategists concentrate on activities that impact the capabilities of several countries and across regional borders.

"We've done this to make ourselves readily identifiable to the stakeholders in the Building Partnerships mission," said Col. Greg Petrequin, the Building Partnerships Division chief. "Our next step is to add Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard officers into our division so they can help integrate the Total Force concept into Building Partnerships planning and execution."

Work of the strategists differ from that of the desk officers in other ways as well.

"The (Building Partnerships) strategists come from a wide range of backgrounds and career specialties," said Lt. Col. Russell Armstrong, the chief of the new branch. "They differ from the desk officers in that their focus is on 10 capabilities (see list below) that cross borders. One example is developing expeditionary capabilities, something that many of our partner nations are working toward. Another is training joint terminal attack controllers. We have a strategist focused on supporting each effort."

Unlike most staff functions, the Building Partnership Operations Branch will form the nucleus of a planning team, or 'white cell,' and deploy under 3rd Air Force with operational units conducting Building Partnerships activities with partner nations.

USAFE Airmen have been deeply involved in building international partnerships for decades. The rebirth of the German Luftwaffe after World War II is a direct result of USAFE Building Partnerships efforts. Declining resources since the end of the Cold War made building partnerships more difficult. Since it takes people and machines to build partnerships, especially if interoperability is the goal; the reductions are significant.

In the last 20 years, USAFE forces have shrunk to approximately 25,000 Airmen and eight fighter squadrons from 65,000 Airmen and 25 fighter squadrons. At the same time, the operational tempo has increased dramatically.

To meet those challenges, strategists focus specific Building Partnerships programs at the headquarters and coordinate engagements throughout EUCOM's theater. They set specific goals and milestones for each program, and work closely with USAFE staff, desk officers and embassies to help build these partner capabilities.

USAFE leaders emphasize everyone in the command plays a role in accomplishing this important function.

"USAFE Airmen have long been leaders in developing and conducting (Building Partnerships) and being overseas gives some advantages," said Brig. Gen. Mark Schissler, the USAFE Plans, Programs and Analyses director. "Now that the Air Force recognizes Building Partnerships as a core function, we're at the cutting edge of refining this important function.

"Our USAFE Airmen need to realize that their partnering efforts at the tactical level have demonstrable strategic importance," General Schissler said. "It's more than just passing some gas or flying a route together. Those acts will build trust and understanding, and each of those small 'bricks' combine to build a strong foundation for future cooperation."

BP Strategy Branch focus areas:

Baltic States: Assist air capability development
Nordics: Enhance NATO interoperability/integration with Baltic states
Develop capability of near-4th generation fighter-capable nations (i.e. F-16s)
Maintain relationships/interoperability with mature partners
Build/sustain Joint Terminal Attack Controller capability
Operational concept development for NATO
Maintain access/basing
Develop airlift capabilities
Build expeditionary capability
Facilitate integrated Command and Control solutions

1st Lt. J.D. Griffin contributed to this story.



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