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Diversity proved to be key during Pacific exercise

  • Published
  • U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Public Affairs

The value of diversity was on full display during Mobility Guardian 2023, a large-scale multinational exercise in the Pacific theater that occurred in July.

Senior Master Sgt. Rita Mae Hernandez, from the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron and Tech. Sgt. Mika Pajas, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron, are both air advisors who were born and raised in the Philippines prior to moving to the United States. The two Airmen leveraged their language skills and understanding of the nuances of Filipino culture to establish relationships with their Philippine Air Force counterparts.

Lt. Col. Robert Chance, the commander of the 571st MSAS, highlighted the essential role that Airmen with language and cultural competence play in the air advisor community.

He emphasized that while technical competence and job performance are important, what sets air advisors apart is their unique ability to connect with allies and partners on a deeper level, and language skills are key to this connection.

"We build rapport with allies and partners. We connect them to the objective, the mission, and the joint force,” Chance said. “We are absolutely force multipliers that leverage allies and partners for the coalition effort beyond imagination."

Pajas said she felt her language skills helped impact the mission and overall exercise by being able to coordinate efficiently with various Philippine civilian and military organizations.

She provided an example with how she was able to establish rapport with the commander of a Philippine air base, and how it paid off when her team needed his approval for an air drop mission to be executed outside the agreed-upon training time. She said that her contributions to that particular air drop mission was the highlight of her experience during the exercise.

Hernandez also said she was able to improve coordination between her team and their Philippine counterparts.

She said she enjoyed the experience of being able to clarify the details and disconnects that are often lost in translation.

"I was really excited and really proud to bridge the gap and to make a difference in improving the relationship between the two countries," Hernandez said.

This was the first time the Air Force held Mobility Guardian in the Pacific theater, which demonstrates the importance senior leaders are devoting to the region.