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AFSFC strengthens bonds with RAF counterparts

  • Published
  • By Debbie Aragon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The Air Force Security Forces Center is continuing to build on its partnerships with the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force by testing a liaison officer agreement at the center. 

Currently, Flight Lt. Alexander O’Rourke is spending 30 days at the AFSFC headquarters and 30 days at the Desert Defender ground Combat Readiness Training Center at Fort Bliss, Texas, before returning for 30 days to the headquarters. 

The idea of a liaison officer agreement came to light last year during a visit in San Antonio between RAF Corps Group Capt. Jules Weekes and AFSFC Commander Col. Phillip Born. 

“We really wanted to see if there was merit in detaching someone here for a longer term,” Weekes said. “Alex’s deployment with security forces now, all be it quite short for this initial assessment, will be immensely valuable to my organization in gaining a better understanding of what the Air Force Security Forces Center does for security forces and determining the utility of a longer, more permanent liaison officer role here.”

Now half-way through his three-month deployment, O’Rourke said his experience so far has been extremely rewarding. 

“During my time here, I’ve worked within AFSFC supporting the weapons and tactics line of effort and I’m currently fulfilling a liaison role within Desert Defender supporting security forces pre-deployment training,” he said. “My experiences have definitely given me a breadth of perspective and has increased my overall understanding of the security forces.” 

One of his biggest learning moments so far was seeing the processes and requirements of the Mission Focused Readiness Training and Leadership Lead-In Track Courses. 

“Personnel who are deploying overseas are required to attend the MFRT at DDGCRTC and I’ve been able to observe certain training serials within the MFRT that give deploying personnel the skills and resilience required to support overseas operations,” O’Rourke said.

He said he was also intrigued with the logistics detail at Desert Defender that delivers needed equipment quickly to support base defense and global operations. 

After his three months with AFSFC, O’Rourke will write a report and provide a recommendation the two leaders will use to determine the future length of deployments and where liaisons would add most value for both organizations.

The agreement was one topic of discussion when Weekes and RAF Corps Group Warrant Officer Gareth Elliott visited the AFSFC recently to continue reciprocal visits and discussions between the two forces.

It's a regular drum beat of interactions to deepen the relationship between the two organizations and ensure “we’re making it a regular feature in what we do,” Weekes said. “It’s really valuable time whether it be on this side of the Atlantic or when you come over to us in the United Kingdom.”

The visits provide an opportunity for dialog about mutual mission interests, Born said.

“We’re exchanging ideas, talking about where we have common problems and where we have common solutions, so we can get to a bigger fix,” he said. “We like to always say that the regiment and security forces have similar problems. We just have a different scale, so as we talk more … share information more, we’re going to come up with better solutions.”

The biggest value from Born’s perspective is how the RAF Corps does business in several areas. 

“From our perspective, the RAF regiment does some things really, really well like lessons learned, air base defense and training. We’re hoping to learn from them,” the colonel said. 

Born would also like to set up a program for Air Force security forces from Desert Defender to deploy to the RAF regiment on its home turf “to see where we can gain traction in having a liaison here and at their location.”

After spending time with his Air Force counterparts, O’Rourke said he can see the benefits of that type of exchange. 

“I believe having a security forces liaison officer within an RAF Regiment Squadron would be beneficial … it will allow the security forces to clearly understand the Combat Readiness Force organizational structure and current commitments, as well as providing an opportunity for the security forces to better understand the RAF Regiment’s safe system of training and pre-deployment requirements,” he said.

O’Rourke said an instructor agreement between Desert Defender and the RAF Regiment’s Training Wing could prove beneficial as well. 

“This would give the instructors a mutual understanding of each service’s training requirements, competencies and will further integrate the range management qualification process,” he said.

Establishing and building these types of relationships are immensely important, Born said. 

“You only have to look at our National Defense Strategy and many of the documents of our Allied partners to understand the most important thing we do is build partnerships and get after it with our Allies to get to a common goal,” he said. “We’ve said this many, many times in the U.S. … we cannot get after the things we want to do as a national power without the help of our Allies and partners, so on that large scale, its immensely important. 

For example, Headquarters Air Force Security Forces currently has an RAF officer on staff and Maj. Gen. Thomas Sherman, the Air Force’s director of security forces attended the RAF Regiment Corp Conference and Formation Dinner earlier this year. 

Since then, Weekes and other senior RAF officers have visited with the general at the Pentagon for further discussion on various mission sets and areas of cooperation including small unmanned aerial systems, counter UAS operations, exercises and operations, as well as continuing or expanding agreements for reciprocal liaison presence on both sides of the Atlantic. 

On the secondary, lower-level, Born said it’s happened before in Iraq and Afghanistan where security forces and the RAF regiment have been on the same pieces of ground.

“And it’s going to happen again, so it’s important we build those relationships at this level as well to ensure when we are faced with danger that we are knowledgeable of each other and trust each other,” Born said. 

For more than 50 years, there’s been a close relationship and exchange of information and ideas between the two Allies. It’s something that needs to keep going and growing at all levels, Weekes said. 

“Whether that be at the staff officer level, our level or the sub-tactical level, this is all part of our program along with exercises like Global Eagle hosted later this year at Moody AFB, Georgia, by another partner of the security forces. All of it is the package that we roll out routinely to ensure that when we deploy, there’s enough of a relationship there and integration that’s gone on beforehand so we can operate seamlessly next to each other or embedded within each other’s organization.”