By Royal Canadian Air Force Brig. Gen. Blaise Frawley
Combined Forces Air Component Commander, Rim of the Pacific 2016
This year marks the 25th iteration of RIMPAC, and I have to admit, I’m really excited to be this year’s combined forces air component commander. My job here is to oversee the air operations for the entire exercise, for which I have a team of about 200 personnel in the Combined Air Operations Centre. Working in such an environment gives us the chance to advance a mutual understanding of what we’re all doing and how we can work together to achieve our common goals.
I will admit, bringing together 200 aircraft is a big feat, but we’re up for the challenge! Building a plan that determines what all of the aircraft will be doing can be tricky, but when we work together, we can achieve anything. Over 200 people work collaboratively in the Combined Air Operations Centre to coordinate, plan and monitor the missions to ensure we operate safely and effectively in support of the exercise. For some of my staff, RIMPAC is their first opportunity to work within a multinational Combined Air Operations Centre. This exercise is an incredible opportunity for these folks to experience what it’s like to work with, synchronize and coordinate air operations on a large-scale and it’s really similar to the environment they would find themselves in if deployed to support expeditionary operations.
For Canada, training exercises like RIMPAC are crucial to the development of the men and women of the Royal Canadian Air Force. It’s important that the Royal Canadian Air Force be able to generate and maintain a combat capable, multi-role air force, and RIMPAC is invaluable for achieving that as it affords us the opportunity to maintain a high level of readiness by participating in real-life scenarios with allied nations. While the focus here is mainly on the maritime domain, what we’re really doing is learning about cooperation between nations, which means if we need to work together in a time of crisis, like a tsunami in Japan, or a typhoon hitting the coast of Asia, we’ll be ready to hit the ground running because we’ll already know how to work together. This is really significant because rarely do we get the chance to work with so many nations in an environment like this. We get to participate in real-life scenarios on a massive scale and that gives us an awesome opportunity to learn from each other and our allies.
RIMPAC 2016, and my position here, has given me the invaluable opportunity to impress upon people that we are here to work together – regardless of rank – and achieve a mutual understanding of what it means to function as one team. Taking the time to learn from other countries and being open to new ways of working together is critical, and that’s why I think RIMPAC is such an incredible environment – we come together as soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen, and work as one coalition, side-by-side.
When I look around at everyone doing such great work in the Combined Air Operations Centre, I feel lucky to be heading a team of such professional and skilled personnel; I hope they’re all making the most of every moment. I try to pass on my knowledge and experiences to my staff because it’s important to me they have successful careers – seeing staff grow every day makes me proud and confident that each of our armed forces are in good hands with our leaders of tomorrow.
One thing I’ve learned from working in a coalition is the importance of good leadership, and I hope to pass that on to those working to support the mission here. I make every effort to lead through motivation and confidence. I believe being a good leader requires a balance of self-confidence and humility and it’s imperative you believe in your own abilities – once you do, you will lead well. Leadership also requires understanding that those around you are your most valuable asset, and if you trust and empower your subordinates, one day they too will be great leaders.
I reflect upon all the airmen and airwomen that came before me and the Royal Canadian Air Force’s deeply rooted tradition, heritage and history. We have incredible capabilities and it takes a lot of training to make sure we are deployment-ready. When we train our people well, we reap the benefits, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here. Nearly every day, I have valuable opportunities to exchange knowledge with leaders from other nations participating in RIMPAC, and the best part is that we are all learning new ways to approach our mission more effectively. The theme of this year’s RIMPAC is Capable, Adaptive, Partners, and collaborating with other allied nations and creating partnerships and mutual understanding is imperative for Canada’s future.
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