SRI LANKA AIR FORCE BASE KATUNAYAKE, Sri Lanka -- The destructive power of Mother Nature has made headlines around the world, and every country is fighting its own war when it comes to natural disasters and humanitarian relief.
To prepare for such events in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. Pacific Air Force and Sri Lanka Air Force co-hosted the Pacific Airlift Rally 2017 (PAR 17) in Sri Lanka Sept. 11 to 15.
Pacific Airlift Rally is a biennial exercise that brings these nations together for a command post and flying training exercise that focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. A C-130J Super Hercules from the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 815th Airlift Squadron, Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, and a C-130J from the 327th Airlift Squadron, Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, as well as 75 U.S. Air Force personnel participated in the event along with 12 other countries.
“The fostering of learning and friendship that is gained from these events will hopefully promote into the real world if something unfortunate happens to these countries,” said Australian Air Force Squadron Leader Adam Vasilj, Deputy Coalition Commander for the command post exercise at Jetwing Blue, Negombo. “Everyone will be in a position to help each other because they have already gained friendships from working in a simulated environment.”
Since 1995, weather related disasters caused 600,000 deaths, injured 4.1 billion people and brought about trillions of dollars in damage around the world, according to a 2015 United Nations report. The Indo-Asia-Pacific region is home to 60 percent of the world’s population across 53 percent of the Earth, so the majority of the world’s natural disasters occur within the PACAF area of responsibility.
This year’s command post exercise scenario involved a cyclone that hit the east coast of Sri Lanka near Ampara causing significant damage to infrastructure.
U.S. Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Dominic Barberi, 815th AS pilot and mission commander, took part in this event.
“In the scenario we simulated the steps you take in a disaster relief and humanitarian assistance operations to bring about effective relief to the people,” he said. “It included logistics such as mission planning, where to stage aircraft, and how to bolster the infrastructure to effectively aid people.”
On Sept. 12, PAR17 also included a medical Subject Matter Expert Exchange that focused on post-disaster medical relief and a Civil Engineering SMEE that covered the capabilities of the regional forces to address civil engineering issues.
Meanwhile, on the flightline, maintainers from the 803rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Keesler AFB, and 913th AMXS, Little Rock AFB, ensured the aircraft was mission ready to complete the interfly with the SLAF for the flying training exercise that included air-land and airdrop operations at the SLAF Base Katunayaka and SLAF Station Ampara, according to U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Brett Keely, 803rd AMXS production superintendent.
When the aircraft arrived in Sri Lanka, they had a real-world hydraulics issue with the aircraft, Keely said.
“We worked with our host to get the parts we needed and our maintenance personnel worked late to get the plane repaired,” he said. “The SLAF is a very hospitable and gracious hosts, and their enthusiasm is infectious.”
Overall exercise commander, Sri Lanka Air Force Air Vice Marshal Prasanna Payoe, stressed the significance of working together during his opening comments at the command post exercise.
“Most of you who are here are first responders to such large scale disasters,” Payoe said. “That is precisely why this exercise is of paramount importance.”
Punishment by nature does not know race, class, or national boundaries, he said to a group consisting of members from the United States, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Australia, and Vietnam.
“It serves us all the same…this is why we need to unite as one,” said Payou.