HURLBURT FIELD, FL --
Amidst a global pandemic and an evolving battlespace, Air Force Special Operations Command continues to find innovative ways to learn, share lessons and improve aviation capabilities with allies and partners. Through a variety of deliberate engagements, AFSOC continues its efforts with allies and partners at the forefront of addressing global security challenges of the future.
To help cultivate and enhance these relationships, the 492d Special Operations Wing is holding a unique version of its Building Partner Aviation Capacity Seminar at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Jan. 24 - Feb. 4, 2022.
For the first time, the semi-annual seminar, hosted by the 492 SOW’s U.S. Air Force Special Operations School, includes international partners, spanning five continents. The countries attending this year’s event include Albania, Botswana, Croatia, Egypt, Ghana, Jordan, Lebanon, Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda among others. Several other joint and combined members were also present.
“Collaborative opportunities like BPACS will drive us to accurate solutions to the world’s problems,” said Maj. Gen. Matthew Davidson, AFSOC director of operations. “This is a long-term collaborative approach to relationship building where our mutual interests come together for the betterment of all people.”
What is BPACS?
BPACS is a seminar that brings together aviation professionals from across the U.S. security cooperation enterprise and NATO alliance, along with other strategic partners to exchange lessons learned on the integration of civil and military operations. Normally, BPACS is regionally focused and doesn’t bring together countries from several different areas of the globe at the same time. However, in an era of strategic competition and shared global challenges, it has been adopted to bring together wider audiences in finding shared solutions to our problems.
“BPACS is a combination of the three things we talk about when we are developing aviation expertise,” said Davidson. “The first being, education; the second, training; the third, experience. I could argue that at this time and place, BPACS is more important than it has ever been in its history.”
In order to accomplish this task, members from USAFSOS, AFSOC’s premiere education institution, worked to coordinate the two-week seminar while ensuring the health and safety standards established by the U.S. during the pandemic.
“There are always challenges to coordinating a global conference this important,” said Maj. Abdulaziz Ali, BPACS director. “COVID has presented its own unique factors in this process as well. Fortunately, each participating country recognizes the importance of the conference to our global partnership building goals. They also realize that one of the smartest ways to ensure we are moving toward the successful accomplishment of these objectives is by taking health and safety precautions seriously.”
BPACS brings aviation-minded partner nation military personnel together with U.S. service members and civil servants to educate them on the core attributes of the aviation enterprise as they relate to national defense strategy.
General Davidson describes this collective and cohesive relationship between strategic competition and partnership building more accurately as integrated deterrence.
“Integrated deterrence is the collective work of both military and governments of our allies to deter actions of our adversaries,” Davidson said. “It requires us to change at another level. It requires all of us to acknowledge and work closer with our partners across the globe. BPACS assists with this goal by allowing us collectively to be collaborative, integrated and interoperable in some aspects to achieve how we deter our adversaries.”
Among the nations that frequently participate in BPACS is the Republic of Croatia, one of the U.S’ allied partners in Eastern Europe. Colonel Saša Crnec , Chief of Flight Safety at the Croatian Air Force, and Croatia’s BPACS representative, welcomed the possibility of strengthening his country’s relationship with the U.S.
“The United States of America is the Republic of Croatia’s important strategic partner in the sustainment and development of defense capabilities,” said Col. Crnec.“I am looking forward to expanding the knowledge about Aviation Enterprise Development through collaborative learning about mutual AED (Aviation Enterprise Development) needs and capacities, as well as expose unique attributes of aviation capacities that contribute to effective national security goal achievement.”
He also articulated how engagements like BPACS help strengthen his country’s faith in the coalition and provide a useful cooperation toward peace.
“I am looking to extend my knowledge about ways and means which influence strategic competition through security cooperation assists in maintaining strong relationships, alliances, and partnership that will promote regional stability,” he added.
The BPACS curriculum includes national security aviation topics, which were selected as part of the program’s overall goals of building mutual respect, facilitating regional consultative mechanisms and deepening Special Operations Forces aviation interoperability in a contested and unfamiliar battlespace.
According to Ali, one of the main focus areas for the U.S. Air Force is working with partners to develop their own aviation capacity throughout the security cooperation’s enterprise in the U.S.
“If we wait for the next major conflict to begin before we synchronize our processes and procedures, then it’s too late,” said Ali. “We need to start thinking about better integration and interoperability today, and our hope is that BPACS can be used as a starting point to facilitate security cooperation and security force assistance activities in aviation.”
These core objectives are handled through a variety of training opportunities that focus on U.S. national security decision-making, civil-military aviation resource cooperation, and the differing perspectives on civilian-military aviation operations.
“When it comes to working alongside our international partners, the value of learning from and with each other is immeasurable,” said Ali. “By continually investing in and cultivating these relationships, we can work cohesively and united amidst any international incidents or violations that may arise. The knowledge we provide here, at the minimum, gives a base understanding of how we operate in an array of scenarios that may dramatically expedite our global response in the future.”
“We ask each attendee to remain open-minded on the ideas shared at this seminar,” Davidson added. “The only way we can have meaningful exchange of ideas is if we are respectful and understanding of differing perspectives and solutions. Sometimes it’s not just understanding the position but also why they believe it. It’s when we do that, that we are truly leading and learning.”
Aside from collaborative instruction, participants will also take time to tour military facilities and get a hands-on orientation of U.S. special operations training and how it’s being integrated into aviation for the future.
“BPACS is focused on the long-term goal of relationship, integration and collaboration,” said Davidson. “Because if we aren’t going to do it, my question is: who is? I don’t think we can face the challenges of the future without them. It falls upon us to build ourselves; all better; together.”