Army Chief of Staff equivalents from 26 countries and senior staff officers from 31 countries around the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions gathered to officially open the Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference VI and the Pacific Armies Management Seminar XXXIII in a ceremony at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 24.
This year's PACC and PAMS are co-hosted by the Japan Ground Self Defense Force and U.S. Army.
The theme for both conferences is Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief in natural and human-induced disasters. The week-long conferences will allow senior officers to discuss and exchange ideas in order to help promote peace and stability in the region, coming up with solutions to complex humanitarian aid issues and develop interpersonal relationships.
"Together, we face some unique and very tough challenges," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commanding general, U.S. Army, Pacific and PAMS XXXIII co host.
Catastrophic disasters are currently a major security threat in the Asia-Pacific region, where 40 percent of the world's disasters have occurred in the last 30 years, said Japan Ground Self Defense Force Gen. Yoshifumi Hibako, chief of staff.
"I firmly believe that discussing the role of ground forces and the issue of international cooperation, as well as the issues that must be addressed in the future will result in greater trust and contribute to stability in the region," he said.
Ground forces have great capabilities for operating against natural disasters, said U.S. Army Chief of Staff and PACC VI co host, Gen. George W. Casey Jr.
Coordinating those forces is a key issue he hopes to focus on during the course of the conference.
"When a disaster strikes, it throws people off balance and everybody wants to help, but without proper coordination, it adds to the burden of the disaster," Casey said.
Mixon also stressed the goals of the conferences by emphasizing the sharing of lessons learned from past disasters during the week.
"We will share lessons learned from our experiences in coping with past disasters. We will discuss civil-military and interagency cooperation in disaster relief operations, and we will look at ways to increase multilateral military cooperation. All of this is designed to foster collaboration and enhance cooperation through dialogue," Mixon said.
That dialogue will help the nations come together and build, or continue to build, positive relationships, which will help in the future.
"When you have a crisis, is not the time to begin building relationships. You do that before and that is what we are doing here," said Casey.
The delegates from each country will meet daily to discuss a variety of topics dealing with this year's theme.
PACC is a biennial, multi-national, executive defense forum and fosters military-to-military cooperation, develops interpersonal relationships and contributes to regional dialogue and stability.
PAMS is a multinational military seminar that provides a forum for senior-level officers from the Asia Pacific's regional ground forces to exchange views and ideas.
It is not only a forum to enhance understanding of the subjects studied, it also provides an opportunity for the future leaders of the region's armies to establish and cultivate a set of strong interpersonal relationships.
PACC VI is scheduled to conclude Aug. 27 and PAMS XXXIII will conclude Aug. 28