Liaision Soldiers Bridge Gaps Between American and Australian Air and Ground Forces
August 5, 2011
CANBERRA, Australia -- Australians and Americans may both speak English, but there are definitely times they’re speaking totally different languages Army Col. Stephen Myers and Australian Lt. Col. Andrew Garrad both agreed.
“I don’t know that your English is the same as mine, mate,” teased Myers, a native of Winchester, Mass.
“Which one is the Queen’s English?” Garrad responded, his reply framed in an Australian clip.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Myers said.
Fortunately, Myers' mission as commander of the 5th Battlefield Coordination Detachment (BCD), is all about helping warriors from different military cultures, who use different military jargon and acronyms talk to each other. Meshing two different strains of English isn’t that hard then.
“Each service talks a little differently and does things a little differently, and because of that, that’s why we’re here,” said Lt. Col. Robert Buscher, an intelligence officer and one of the forty members of the 5th BCD.
Operating out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the 5th BCD is responsible for an area extending from Alaska to Australia, from California to China, and from under the sea to the upper atmosphere.
When Soldiers need something from the Air Force, they go through the 5th BCD for the request: whether that is for fire support or transportation or intelligence. In turn, the 5th BCD provides the Air Force with a real time perspective of what’s happening on the ground, as well as support in planning and air defense.
“We make sure that the air side knows everything they need to know about the land side,” said Buscher, a resident of Honolulu, Hi. “And we make sure that the land side can trust they have air assets to help them.”
“We take it for granted in the Army, but the space above us needs to be carved out,” said Lt. Col. Curby Scarborough, 5th BCD planning officer. “It’s a very detailed process, because who would want to put a million dollar aircraft up there and not have it fulfill its capacity?”
Much like the difference between Australian English and American English, translating between each services’ process means recognizing the nuances in each other’s language, Scarborough said.
As part of Exercise Talisman Sabre, a biennial training activity sponsored jointly by the U.S. Pacific Command and Australian Defence Force Joint Operations Command, the 5th BCD worked side by side with members of Garrad’s 1st Ground Liaison Group to ensure the 14,000 U.S. and 9,000 Australian military personnel participating in maritime, land, and air operations exercises had the integration they needed.
To understand how the Air Force operates, 5th BCD Soldiers attend Air Force schools, learn Air Force terms, and work at the 613th Air and Space Operations Center.
In an AOC, they represent the Army’s voice at the nerve center of the Air Force’s Pacific operations, said Air Force Maj. Linda Vadnais, chief of offense at the 613th AOC.
The 5th BCD helps her clarify what options exist. If the Air Force is watching an enemy mechanized infantry unit, they can reach out to the BCD for an Army perspective on its capabilities, Vadnais explained.
“Having someone who can interpret Army speak to Air Force speak is key,” Vadnais, a Huntsville, Ala., native, said. “I give them my solution, and they can say, ‘well, that’s not quite right. They’re really looking for this.’”
Vadnais and the 613th AOC came with the BCD to Australia to participate in Talisman Sabre. The combined U.S. and Australian AOC helped ensure that major training operations, such as the airdrop at the beginning of the exercise, had air and ground on the same page.
BCD Soldiers said interacting with the Australians, who normally do not operate around the concept of an AOC, showed them that learning also extends both ways in operations with other countries.
“Just by interacting, we’ve learned a lot about the similarities and differences between our sides,” said Scarborough, a resident of Wahiawa, Hi. “Our similarities allowed us to easily understand our role. Our differences also helped in that the different ways we learned how to do things may help us down the line.”
The many long days put in by his Soldiers during the exercise, Myers said, makes him confident that if called to war, his unit would be able to adapt and thrive.
“I’m new to this unit, so this was huge to watch the Australian team work,” Myers said.
"I got to see my unit in action, and I’m impressed by our level of knowledge and training. My guys were on their game. We learned a lot on this exercise, and we’re going to take this back to Hawaii with us," he added.
“We’re speaking the same language,” concurred Garrad, “And I’m not just talking about English, I mean the doctrinal language."
“We’re the pinnacle of joint integration,” Garrad said. “The oil in the wheels, if you like, is the BCD, that actually makes that integration between the two: Army and Air Force.”