The exchange is part of the State Partnership Program, designed to exchange knowledge between the United States and Indonesian service members while strengthening their relationship.
“We’re trying to build good relationships in Southeast Asia,” said U.S. Army Maj. Joseph O. Tolentino, commander of Army Aviation Support Facilty #1. “I think it’s important for us to bridge the gap between America and Indonesia in order to build trust.”
Soldiers from HIARNG Company B, 1-171st Aviation Regiment and Indonesian airmen spent time discussing how best to maintain rotary-wing aircraft, train pilots and maintain equipment.
“We are very lucky to be able to come here and participate in this exchange with the Army,” said Col. Eding Sungkana, a helicopter pilot in the Indonesian air force. “We gained a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge, and we hope this exchange will take place every year.”
Over the course of the exchange, topics such as maintenance intervals, pilot training standards, and corrosion control were discussed. Briefings were given by service members from both the Hawaii Army National Guard and the Indonesian air force.
“We need to improve our safety practices,” said Lt. Col. Arnold Fernando Sittorus, a helicopter pilot with the Indonesian air force. “So we’ve been working to learn those practices from the Hawaii Army National Guard.”
The Hawaii Guard also benefitted from the exchange, with Soldiers getting the chance to learn about Indonesia’s humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HA/DR) missions, as well as their best maintenance practices.
“It gave us an idea of how they operate,” said Tolentino. “We got a taste of how they respond to search and rescue missions, what types of aircraft they use, and what their maintenance practices are.”
Topics discussed during the exchange were decided upon as a result of meetings held between officers from the Indonesian air force and the HIARNG months prior.
“We went to Indonesia and met with the Tentara Nasional Indonesian-Angkatan Udara,” said Tolentino. “We came up with a plan and developed a curriculum.”
“Overall, we were able to help them with what they wanted to learn,” said Tolentino. “They seemed interested and receptive, and at the end of the day, I think we built a strong bond with them.”
In addition to the various presentations, the knowledge exchange also included various demonstrations and hands-on activities, to include a demonstration flight in a CH-47F Chinook helicopter.
“I wanted to show them the capabilities of the CH-47,” said Tolentino. “I think they had a good experience, and it’s great that we were able to bring them out on a flight.”
Officers from the Indonesian air force also had a chance to experience the Hawaii Army National Guard’s aerial gunnery simulators.
“For many of the Indonesian air force personnel, it was their first time in a simulator like that,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Fred T. Dona, the standardization instructor for the CH-47F Chinook helicopter. “I think they really enjoyed virtual helicopter gunnery training.”
Even though the service members from the United States and Indonesia came from different cultural backgrounds, they were able to relate through their common professions, solidifying their relationship with one another.
“Wherever you go in the aviation world, it’s good to see that there are similarities,” said Dona. “These guys come from another country, they speak a different language, but when we talk about aviation it’s like we’re speaking the same language, and we can relate on that level.”