Australia, Japan and the United States combined at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief scenario during Exercise Cope North.
For the first time in the exercise’s history, the Japan Air Self-Defence Force, also referred to as the Koku-Jieitai, was the lead nation for the combined mission.
Deputy Commander of the Multinational Task Force (MNTF) Wing Commander Alan Brown said despite COVID-19 limitations and language barriers, participating nations were able to fully integrate their teams for mission success.
“The purpose of the MNTF is to combine all three nations into a single trilateral force,” Wing Commander Brown said.
“The MNTF headquarters had to reach operational effectiveness very fast in order to provide support and guidance to the combined team on the ground.
“The headquarters staff and the response force on the ground melded really well and very quickly.
As with every contingency response mission, the first couple of days are hectic, but to the credit of the Koku-Jieitai team which was leading the mission, it understood the priorities, which enabled the combined response to succeed.
The scenario was based on a natural disaster occurring on a fictitious island in the Indo-Pacific region. It was focused on establishing expeditionary airfields for the delivery of humanitarian relief.
Born in Ayr just south of Townsville and raised in Malanda south-west of Cairns, Wing Commander Brown is no stranger to the impact of weather events on people living in the tropics.
“The humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission was to support a whole-of-government response to a small island nation north of Australia, which had been severely impacted by a typhoon,” Wing Commander Brown said.
“My role was to provide higher headquarters guidance to the trilateral forces deploying forward in support of the mission.”
As the Commanding Officer of No. 383 Squadron, Wing Commander Brown was heartened by the interest and enthusiasm shown by his Japanese counterparts in contingency response operations.
“This is the first time I’ve worked with the Koku-Jieitai and we have worked really well together to make the headquarters operate effectively,” he said.
“We were all very keen to understand and learn how a contingency response headquarters operates and what the priorities are to successfully achieve a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission.”
Commander of the MNTF Colonel Shinobu Yamamoto said Cope North provided an excellent opportunity for the Koku-Jieitai, US Air Force and RAAF to come together to train and learn from each other.
“This year has been difficult because of COVID-19, however the MNTF team has worked hard to integrate and form a cohesive team even under the COVID restrictions,” Colonel Yamamoto said.
“Commanding the MNTF during the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief phase of the exercise has been a wonderful experience and I have enjoyed working in this trilateral partnership.”
Exercise Cope North is being held from February 3-19. It is a long-standing annual exercise sponsored by Pacific Air Forces, which aims to build common understanding and trilateral interoperability between Australia, the US and Japan.