Foreign liaison officers facilitate cooperation, mutual understanding
By Amy Rollins, Skywrighter Staff
Republished from Skywrighter, April 26, 2019
Foreign liaison officers are assigned to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, which is the organization responsible for administering the Air Force’s multi-billion dollar Foreign Military Sales enterprise.
Headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base under the direction of Brig. Gen Sean Farrell, AFSAC is in charge of the sales of aircraft, munitions, equipment, supply and construction needed to deliver and support airpower capabilities for more than 100 partner nations around the world.
“AFSAC directly supports the national defense strategy, which includes the Secretary of Defense line of effort to, ‘Strengthen alliances and attract new partners,” Farrell said. “We do that by providing USAF weapon systems and associated logistics, sustainment and building construction support to 112 international partners which strengthens their national security and contributes immeasurably to global security. Twenty-one of those nations handpick their very best officers and send them to AFSAC, and we are privileged to work every day, face-to-face, with fine professionals like LCol J.F. Harvey of Canada.”
Representing the FLOs is LCol Jean-Francois Harvey of Canada, who serves in multiple capacities: as his country’s supply liaison officer to the U.S. Air Force; senior national representative for Canada assisting his countrymen who come to Wright-Patterson AFB to work at such entities as the National Air and Space Intelligence Center; commanding o
Officer for the 1 Canadian Logistic Liaison Unit; and spokesperson for the 37 foreign liaison officers on base.
“We ensure the success of the various processes involved in the foreign military sales,” Harvey said. “When all of the countries’ representatives here get together to discuss the same issues, we create synergies and have more weight in the possible solutions. My responsibility is to find those issues relevant to all the partners and together we present those to AFSAC.”
With AFSAC doing business with approximately 110 countries, the FLOs at Wright-Patterson AFB represent about 20 percent of them.
“Our issues are somewhat representative of what AFSAC would encounter with them,” Harvey said. “We serve as a good sample of their various customers.”
One aspect of his job that he appreciates tremendously, he said, is his access to AFSAC leadership, particularly Farrell.
“Here I have the privilege of talking directly with Brig. Gen Farrell and the AFSAC directors,” Harvey pointed out. “I think that is key!”
An example took place several weeks ago when the Security Partners Forum was held by the general’s staff and the FLOs. A high-level discussion ensued, and Harvey was able to talk one-on-one with the AFSAC commander. “That’s very good,” he said.
“While furthering the collective agenda, I am also able to represent Canadian issues to the general, which is a real advantage.”
Harvey has served as the FLO chairman since October and for a year previous to that as deputy under Wing Commander Andrew State of Australia. This is his third assignment in the United States; the others have been with the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command at the Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Center, New Cumberland, Pennsylvania; and Naval Supply Systems Command, Weapon System Support, Philadelphia. A native of Quebec City, he has served his country for more than 25 years.
“Now here I am with the U.S. Air Force – we saved the best for last.” Harvey said.
Serving in such a capacity often is a family effort. Harvey is accompanied by his wife, Jennifer Gilbert, and their 11-year-old daughter, Avery. As a Canadian, Gilbert was able to obtain a U.S. work visa and teaches English as a second language.
Something the Canadians appreciate, Harvey said, is Dayton’s “warm” weather. Previously assigned to Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg, Manitoba, where it can get down to -45 degrees F at night, he said he loves the winter here. The family also enjoys access to the commissary, Wright-Patterson Medical Center and its pharmacies.
“We don’t have infrastructure of that size in Canada because we are a smaller military,” he noted.
Other things on the family’s list of favorites are local bike paths and the ability to travel to other parts of the nation. Many FLOs make it a point to visit as many states as possible.
“Several years ago, we had a FLOwho traveled to all 50 states during his three years here. They realize it’s accessible and there are so many beautiful places to go,” Harvey said.
Another role Harvey said he enjoys is acting as a sort of master of ceremony for official functions like FLOwelcomes and departures and social events.
Every year Air Force Materiel Command sponsors a ball to honor the community of foreign liaison officers stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB in support of security assistance.
The international community reciprocates by hosting and self-funding the formal International Reception, to be held May 11 at the Wright-Patterson Club.
“We invite our AFSAC counterparts who help us conduct our business so we can say, ‘Thank you’ for your support,” he said.
“The social events are significant for the international community because American customs and the English language can be challenging for some members,” Harvey said.
“We try to have barbecues, bowling outings and get-togethers so we can include the spouses as much as possible,” he said. “Many are not permitted to work (outside the home) and may not speak the language well; it’s important they have the opportunity to socialize.”
Some spouses have left professional careers behind and have to adjust to that reality, Harvey added.
Sporting events are another popular way for the FLOand AFSAC members to engage. A soccer match scheduled for May 21 and a softball game July 31 are “competitive”, he noted.
“I’m not going to jinx the soccer match because we usually do pretty well at soccer – we have some European and South American players who have played since they were toddlers, but then comes softball. This is where it goes a bit less smoothly,” Harvey laughed. “We beat them in soccer and then we get beaten badly in softball. But we have picnics afterward. And there are no hard feelings because there can be no bragging on either side.”
That spirit of win-win is the essence of the FLO/AFSAC relationship.
“We are stronger together, and this is reflected by the kinds of relationships we have with each other and with AFSAC,” he said.