Story by LCpl Liah Kitchen on 03/30/2017Exchanging different cultures and operating procedures between coalition partners provides a unique opportunity to strengthen military-to-military relations and improve coordination for future cooperation.
Royal Australian Air Force Flight Lt. Daniel Lee, an air traffic controller and a battlefield air space controller, is in a personnel exchange program with Marine Air Control Group (MACG) 38 where he is integrated into the group staff and reports to the group chain of command. Likewise for Lee's MACG-38 counterpart, who is assigned to Headquarters 44 Wing.
The program was established by RAAF in 2002 and lends the opportunity for their airmen to experience Marine Corps operating procedures, strategic planning, and customs and courtesies during their exchange tour which lasts for more than two years.
To be accepted for PEP, officers must be the rank of an O-3 or higher and must have a tactical battlefield air space control background.
"There are many similaritiesmilitary structure and operating procedures, but there are several differences as well," said Lee, who currently works as the assistant operations officer with Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron (MTACS) 38 and is responsible for coordinating the squadron's exercises. "The Marine Corps has been very impressive with their war fighting mentalityeveryone is told and understands the reason they fly is to support the Marines on the ground."
"I don't see him any differently than a Marine captain who works as the assistant operations officer," said Maj. Jayson Davidson, the executive officer of MTACS-38. "He has the same duties and responsibilities we would expect of a Marine who is filling his billet. He executes that excellently within the squadron."
During his time with MTACS-38, Lee has participated in several training events including Steel Knight, Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Team Leaders Course, Weapons and Tactics Instructor's Course and has flown in several different Marine Corps aircraft.
"Being at MTACS-38 has taught me about how the Marines integrate air and ground," said Lee. "In Australia we are integrating within our services more and more so this experience will definitely help me with planning and coordinating future exercises."
Lee arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in June 2015 and is scheduled to leave in January 2018.
Although he is learning how the Marine Corps operates tactically, Lee says the connections and friendships he is making with Marines during the exchange is one of the most important parts of being in the exchange program.
"There are two parts to the cooperation you get with this exchange," said Davidson. "There's the big picture of the United States working with our coalition partners, and there are the ties established between individuals which last long after the exchange has ended."