USA: Navy Diplomats Visit Naval Air Station Pensacola

Navy Diplomats Visit Naval Air Station Pensacola

Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola hosted 20 members of the Corps of Foreign Naval Attaches, Sept. 16 – 18 during their fall tour of U.S. Navy installations.

The diplomats come from a wide range of countries and backgrounds and are touring Navy commands in the United States to learn about the Navy’s capabilities and be exposed to the major cultural, industrial, governmental and historical aspects of the U.S.

The senior officers represent Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey and United Kingdom.

The group visited the National Naval Aviation Museum and stopped in at Naval Education and Training Command headquarters for an overview of Navy training. At the Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity (NETSAFA) they learned how the command works as the U.S. Navy’s agent for managing international training under security assistance and security cooperation programs. At the Aviation Rescue Swimmer School they observed how Sailors become rescue swimmers. They also toured and received briefs at the Naval International Training Center, Naval Aviation Schools Command and the School of Aviation Safety. At Naval Aviation Technical Training Command (NATTC) they saw how blended learning is used to train Sailors and Marines to become aviation mechanics and technicians. On their last day they saw the acrobatic maneuvers performed by the Blue Angels, the Navy’s flight demonstration team, during a practice show.

The attaches watched aircrew water survival training, observed flight students learning about flight physiology, toured the U.S. Air Force 479th Flying Training Group and wrapped up their visit by taking a tour of Training Air Wing Six where they saw firsthand how students are taught how to fly not only in planes, but also with simulators.

Rear Adm. Matthew Kohler, deputy director of Naval Intelligence, director of Intelligence Operations accompanied the group during their tour.

“This is a chance for them to get a unique look at the Navy and how we train our Sailors, and many of these countries have their own sailors coming through these courses,” Kohler said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to get a firsthand view and understanding, and to take the messages back to their own countries. It’s a great occasion for us to show the international nature of the training that goes on in Pensacola.”

“No matter how ‘virtual’ we get,” continued Kohler, “it’s the personal connections that are going to be very important as our nations continue to work forward in the future. It’s the relationship part that’s a very important part of this trip.”

According to Debra Gustowski, deputy director of the Navy’s foreign liaison office, she has been bringing groups to Pensacola for several years to help them gain insight and ensure that U.S. Naval attaches are given the same consideration by their host countries.

“This is the fourth time I’ve brought a group of attaches to Pensacola. They’re here to find out about the U.S. Navy. Concurring to the Vienna conventions back in 1960, agreements were made that each country would accept attaches representing individual services. Just like an ambassador represents a country they represent their navies. They’re here to collect information about our Navy and we provide that collection,” she said. “Another purpose is that we show them a good tour and they go back to their countries and say ‘my tour in the states was great, make sure you show the attaches in Berlin or London, or Dehli, or wherever, the same courtesy.'”

New Zealand Navy Cmdr. Mathew Williams noted that some of the training is similar in the United States as in his country.

“The blended learning is something we’ve embraced back in New Zealand. Aviation doesn’t take as significant a role since we are small navy, but we do have some aviation,” he said. “I think the blended learning solution and use of computer-based training in classrooms is very similar to ours. It’s nice to see the similarities in the way we train people.”

Royal Navy Cmdr. Ian Atkins was astounded by the volume of Sailors trained at NATTC.

“We are using the blended learning solution to a degree,” Atkins said. “What I’ve been most impressed with is the sheer scale of the number of people put through – about 35,000 trainees per year. To get that number of trainees to the right standard so they can operate effectively in the fleet, I think is extremely impressive.”

The visit also holds special meaning for Atkins.

“My wife’s grandfather trained here in Pensacola in 1941. When he returned to the UK he flew during D-Day and Arnhem,” he said. “In a way it has been a bit of a homecoming. My wife’s grandfather died in January, he was 97 and his wife, who is 94, had a heart attack yesterday and survived. It’s all good things and has been very poignant coming here.”

The tour is conducted on behalf of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). The corps of naval attaches is a distinguished group of foreign flag and other senior officers accredited by the Department of the Navy and the Department of State to officially represent their CNO equivalents and governments with regard to naval matters and concerns. Historically, this prestigious assignment has produced many flag officers who have subsequently become their equivalent of our CNO or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“It was our absolute pleasure to host Admiral Kohler and so many outstanding naval attaches representing our friends and allies from around the world,” said Capt. Christopher Plummer, NAS Pensacola’s commanding officer. “In my experience, naval officers around the globe share a common bond and a connection with the sea, creating an almost instant rapport. This group was no exception. I personally loved meeting and sharing sea-stories with this great group of naval officers and really enjoyed showing off this beautiful installation and all the fantastic stuff we do here.”

The attaches will continue their trip through the United States with a visit to Jacksonville, Fla. before returning to Washington D.C.

Naval Today Staff, September 20, 2012; Image: US Navy