COMUSAFE explains importance of interdependence

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Elizabeth Culbertson
  • USAFE News Service
The commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe addressed the importance of interdependence in the continuing fight for freedom at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium Feb. 2.

General Tom Hobbins, echoing a common theme in the symposium, emphasized the need for multinational cooperation in military operations.

“Interdependence is, in fact, a way of life. We work together, we live together, we fight together. For 64 years, this has been a way of life for us.” he said.

USAFE, which spans 91 countries and three continents, is proof of successful multinational partnerships, said General Hobbins.

“We have a theater that has delivered proven coalition forces,” he said. “Seventeen of 22 Operation Iraqi Freedom coalition members and 12 of 19 Operation Enduring Freedom coalition members are all from this theater.”

The general added that, in the wake of 9/11 and the terrorist bombings in Madrid, London and Istanbul, the relationships that had been fostered between allies could be clearly seen, for example in the launching of NATO Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft during Operation Noble Eagle. The NATO deployment to the United States allowed the American military to use U.S. AWACS aircraft in Operation Enduring Freedom.

“Active engagement pays off when it counts -- in the global war,” he said.

As a commander with four distinct hats, General Hobbins is familiar with the necessity for cooperation. He serves as commander of NATO Allied Air Component Command Ramstein, Director of the Joint Air Power Competence Center, commander of the air component to EUCOM and, of course, as USAFE commander.

“Regardless of which hat I wear, I’m out to fly, fight and win as a valued and recognized member of an interdependent team of allies -- joint services and coalition,” he said.

The general cited the success of working partnerships in the command, such as the German Bundeswehr assisting with base security.

“Really what we’re building is trust and confidence through this daily interaction amongst our allies,” he said. “We’ve capitalized on our collective strengths.”

Another example of a successful partnership, said General Hobbins, is the NATO Response Force’s support to Hurricane Katrina and Pakistan earthquake victims.

“In Pakistan, there were 42 nations involved offering assistance, over 1,000 troops, 11 C-130s from six different nations - Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Turkey and England. We even managed to send a mobile NATO medical team ... helping more than 2,000 patients,” said the general.

The general spoke about NATO’s contributions to stability operations in Afghanistan and the importance of adopting a strategic expeditionary mindset.

“We have to look at this international security system,” said General Hobbins. “Thirty-eight NATO and Partnership for Peace nations are participating (in Afghanistan) in stability operations ... as we will see later this year, that (number of participants in) stability ops will grow. We’ll actually have 16,500 NATO and Partnership for Peace troops ... setting up provincial reconstruction teams.”

The coalition’s air policing mission, said the general, is another example of multinational cooperation with an emphasis on command and control.

“These contingency operations have proven that a (multinational) force can act with an achieved capability in situations where overflight happens often in as little as 20 minutes in one country, but could be as little as five minutes,” he said.

General Hobbins also addressed the importance of joint and coalition training to ensure effective interdependence. He mentioned exercises such as Clean Hunter, Cooperative Key and Anatolian Eagle to train forces to work together and look ahead to future challenges.

“It helps mitigate challenges in our interdependent team, and that’s why these countries are all participating,” he said.

Referencing USAFE’s expeditionary mindset, the general spoke about the move “east and south” towards the “roots of terrorism.”

“Our presence in these areas is truly important and that’s why our combatant commander wants us to be over there,” he said.

Whether through the Rhein-Main Transition Program, the aeromedical evac mission or the standing up of the Warfighting Headquarters, USAFE itself is thoroughly engaged in forging interdependent mobility, said General Hobbins.

“All in all, I want to leave you with the concept that we’re building an interdependent force. Our engagement leads to specific partner credibility. And when we show up, the power of our presence ... means a lot to those people. Credibility leads to their independence and their independence strengthens our interdependence.”