2nd of a 3-part series

USNI Blog continues its talk with Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, USAF.

Operation Southern PArtner Group Photo

Operation Southern Partner Group Photo

Q: What is the Air Force’s relationship with the U.S. Public Health Service and NGO’s like Operation Smile and Project Hope?

Seip: AFSOUTH has a strong relationship with the US Public Health Service and with non-governmental organizations such as Project Hope. Last year, Air Force medical technicians accomplished more than 30 medical engagements across the region, partnering with a number of non-governmental organizations, local Ministries of Health and USPHS.

This year, we’re unveiling even more of these initiatives during medical engagements in Peru – the first-ever “RIVERINE” medical deployment – and Guyana during New Horizons 09. We’re also partnering with University of Arizona Medical School to ensure our missions have lasting and measurable impacts on local populations by tracking progress over several years and sharing medical studies with local health organizations.

In addition, our team will often transport donated school supplies and medical equipment on board USAF aircraft to ensure clinics and schools are outfitted with much-needed items (in accordance with applicable US law and DoD regulations). Working together with NGOs we’re ensuring our projects aren’t simply a hollow building – from day one they’re ready to support the community with all of the equipment and supplies needed to operate.

It’s very exciting to see how this cooperation between the public, private sector and military is taking shape – Col Scott Van Valkenburg, the AFSOUTH command surgeon, is pushing to include more of these NGOs and State Department organizations in our missions. The rationale is simple: together our efforts can have a profound, positive effect on the citizens we treat during our medical missions – it makes sense to partner with these organizations.

Q: What is the role of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard in Soft Power?

Seip: The Total Force is already deeply involved. A large percentage of the Airmen who participate in our nation’s Soft Power missions are from the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Many of the Airmen on board the USNS Comfort were from the National Guard and Air Force Reserves, 50% of the aircraft and personnel participating in the NEWEN exercise were from Reserve units and dozens of the medical deployments in our area of focus are conducted by Guard and Reserve Airmen.

These professionals provide a wealth of knowledge and experience to enhance our team and benefit every operation – and their role is growing. A recent example is the signing of the State Partnership Program agreement between the Texas National Guard and the Chilean military. The ceremony will take place in April, opening the door for increased cooperation between Guard units in Texas and the Chilean military during exercises, exchanges, humanitarian response and training events. State National Guard Bureaus have had a long history of Soft Power initiatives with more than 20 agreements in the State Partnership Program in the USSOUTHCOM area of focus alone.

There’s even a full time Guard Colonel and Reserve Colonel on our staff to help us ensure we fully integrate these forces into our plans. Our command is so integrated with the Total Force that it’s not even a consideration – Airmen and equipment come from Active Duty, Guard and Reserve units on virtually every mission – I don’t even ask where a person comes from because, in my assessment, they’re all equally skilled and part of the team. The Total Force keeps achieving the AFSOUTH mission as the top priority.

Q: Is there a role for the Civil Air Patrol in soft power?

Seip: Sure. The Civil Air Patrol is a unique organization that shares a great synergy with Airmen. During domestic disaster response efforts, they’ve played a major role within the United States and I foresee they’ll likely expand these efforts. Many Americans are unaware of CAP’s heroic assistance to our nation during natural disasters, combating the flow of illicit drugs and securing our borders in cooperation with military and law enforcement organizations. The CAP has a breadth of experience and skill set that perfectly aligns with our nation’s Soft Power objectives so I see their role continuing to increase. I’d welcome the CAP on any of our missions!

Q: What were some of your lessons learned from last year’s Operation Southern Partner?

Seip: The first iteration of Operation Southern Partner was incredibly successful. We learned a lot about how to execute this mission from a logistical standpoint. Anytime you’re deploying more than 80 Airmen from 25 different career fields to four countries in two weeks, there are challenges.

More importantly, USAF Airmen learned from partner nation Airmen through the sharing of ideas, tactics, techniques and procedures. We never claim to bring all the answers to the table; instead we come to the table with a mindset of “What can I learn from the Airman seated across from me?”

If you are interested in learning more about Operation Southern Partner, click here.

The final installment of my interview with Lt. Gen. Seip continues tomorrow.

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Soft Power

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