Missile defence experts from all over the Pacific theatre are meeting at the Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, for the four-day Joint Interface Control Officer Conference 2007, which started on Monday 16 July. Army, Navy and Air Force missile experts from Japan, Hawaii and California, who have worked together virtually for many years, met face to face for the first time during the conference.
This is the second missile defence conference at Hickam Air Force Base. The first was held in 2006.
Tumultuous events set a background to the conference. In July 2006, North Korea test-fired seven missiles, including the long-range Taepodong-2. Later that year, North Korea exploded its first nuclear device. For the United States and its partners in the Pacific, these events underline the importance of a Pacific theatre ballistic missile defence system.
The Joint Interface Control Officer Conference brings members of different services together to plan and implement ballistic missile defence measures.
Face to face
"Phone, e-mail and teleconference are all good tools, but nothing can replace the networking that you get done face to face," said Navy Lt Commander Chuck Davenport, a joint interface control officer from the 3rd Fleet in San Diego. "You get to know the individual you're working with," he said, "so you can forge a stronger working relationship."
Army Brig Gen John E Seward, the commander of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defence Command, opened the conference. The key to effective ballistic missile defence is cooperation between the military services, he said. "If you don't work together and practice, you're never going to be the team that's going to win the game," he explained, adding, "When you know who's on the other end of that phone, the two of you can make things happen."
The US Pacific Command is taking a lead role in ballistic missile defence. It is the only theatre with an air and missile defence command. One of the reasons for the conference is also that the lessons learned in this theatre can be applied them in other theatres across the globe.