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Foreign Liaison Officers serve as key coalition partners

Wing Commander Andy State of Australia serves as chairman of the Foreign Liaison Officers, part of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (Skywrighter photo/Amy Rollins)

Wing Commander Andy State of Australia serves as chairman of the Foreign Liaison Officers, part of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (Skywrighter photo/Amy Rollins)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- 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. Gregory Gutterman, AFSAC is in charge of the sale of aircraft, munitions, equipment, supply and construction needed to deliver and support airpower capabilities for more than 100 partner nations around the world.

“We work for the 110 international partners worldwide that employ weapon systems purchased from us and used in coalition operations across various Areas of Responsibility,” Gutterman said. “Twenty-two of the 110 countries send 36 military and one civilian Foreign Liaison Officers, or FLOs, to AFSAC. Assigned FLOs work with us every day on their individual country Foreign Military Sales portfolio.

“It’s a real pleasure to work with our Foreign Liaison Officers here at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” the general said, “and great experience learning the different cultures and getting some insight into how each of the countries functions politically, militarily and socially. The Foreign Liaison Officers are a critical part of our mission – they are the face of their country, plus they strengthen AFSAC as an organization by contributing to our great diversity.”

Leading the FLOs is Wing Commander Andy State of Australia, who serves in multiple capacities: as his country’s supply liaison officer to the U.S. Air Force; senior national representative for Australia assisting his countrymen who come to Wright-Patterson AFB to work at such entities as the National Air and Space Intelligence Center; and chairman of the 21-nation Foreign Liaison Officers community on base.

“It’s the liaison between the international community here – many of whose members have learned English as a second language – and AFSAC leadership, tactical leads and subject matter experts,” State said. “I also work to ensure the FLOs are supported by AF-SAC’s administrative staff.”

He has served as the FLO chairman for almost a year and has been assigned to Wright-Patterson AFB for two years.

Serving in such a capacity often comes with sacrifices. State is accompanied by his wife, but their two college-age children attend college in Melbourne, Australia. Computers, the telephone and email help close the distance.

The couple’s personal situation highlights the importance of the social events the FLO office coordinates.

“We organize barbecues, pool nights and other social activities to build esprit de corps,” State said. “It’s important for the international community to share ideas. Often work is accomplished in a social environment.

“Many of the people here are many thousands of miles and multiple time zones away from their home country, so it’s very important we have people we can share issues with and look after each other professionally and socially,” he said.

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.

State recalled with pleasure sitting with Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, AFMC commander, during the 2017 International Ball and providing the evening’s formal toast.

“That was a wonderful opportunity to engage with her and represent my country as well as the international community,” State said.

The international community reciprocates by hosting and self-funding the International Buffet, to be held May 4 at the Wright-Patterson Club.

“It’s our opportunity to give thanks for the support we are provided with during the year,” State said.

Sporting events are another popular way for the FLOs and AFSAC members to engage. A soccer match in May and a softball game in August are “highly competitive and we always have fun,” he noted.

State acknowledges the importance of the social activities, but there is also a great deal of work to be accomplished by the FLOs within AFSAC’s framework.

“My country, for example, has Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen right now in harm’s way operating in the Middle East and other areas, in coalition operations working alongside our American and international partners. By helping us, you might be helping your own servicemembers as we support Americans in harm’s way,” he said.

State pointed, for example, to the battlespace management capability provided by the Royal Australian Air Force’s E-7A Wedgetail aircraft and the airlift role of the C-17 fleet.

“When we have a requirement for our aircraft to have parts repaired or replaced, it’s crucial because those aircraft are providing for the coalition mission,” he said. “By helping us, you’re helping your own forces; it really is an international effort through this very small support office.”

In comparison to the hundreds of thousands of servicemembers in the U.S. Air Force, Australia’s Royal Air Force has 14,000 members.

“We have to do a lot; we can’t waste a man, a dollar, a plane or a day,” State said. “Our job as FLOs is to move our spare parts and have our repairable items processed as effectively and as quickly as possible.”

Having deployed on numerous occasions including a recent eight-month deployment down range, State knows the importance of the FLO efforts.

“It’s great to be here supporting my brothers in arms who are in harm’s way right now,” he said.

State said he appreciates the support and access provided by Gutterman and other AFSAC leadership. A quarterly Security Partners Forum, co-chaired by Gutterman and State, serves as an opportunity to highlight where foreign customers need support and ways to provide for the warfighter more effectively.

“Our relationships within AFSAC are remarkable,” State said, “as we coordinate 21 countries’ competing requirements and differing cultural, religious, language and desired outcomes.”

While there is tremendous cooperation among the 21 FLO countries, they also like to emphasize key parts of their cultures. A country’s national day is an opportunity for sharing food and fellowship. While State said he has become especially fond of Thai food, “the Australian sausages aren’t bad either.”

Australian breakfast favorites will be served April 25 at 8 a.m. at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force during ANZAC Day, which will be open to the public. Other Australian events will be a golf tournament Aug. 3 and centennial commemoration June 22 of mateship between the U.S. and Australia.

Mateship is an Australian cultural idiom that embodies equality, loyalty, shared experiences and friendship.

“We will commemorate and celebrate the close relations between Australia and the U.S. I believe we have been the only country to be alongside America in every conflict since World War I,” State said.