The balcony outside the “Flag Mess,” or Admiral’s dining room, on the sixth floor of the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), offers one of the most all-encompassing views of Honolulu and the southern coast of the island of Oahu in Hawaii. From the Diamond Head promontory on the far left (familiar to fans of Hawaii 5-0) through Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, to Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field, on to the Waianae mountains to the far right, on a sunny December morning it is hard to envision how different the scene would have been 72 years ago.
December 7, 1941 – the “day that will live in infamy” in the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt – saw the Japanese Imperial Navy attack on Pearl Harbor and many other U.S. military installations on Oahu. A Hawaiian friend, now 85 years old, was a schoolgirl at the time. She remembers the sound of the attack and running out onto the lawns of the Kamehameha School – the first school established for native Hawaiians – to see the Japanese planes bombing the U.S. fleet at Pearl, an experience that left indelible memories.
Other witnesses to the attack, who survived and lived to fight in the Pacific campaign, are fewer and fewer every year. They still return, some to spend eternity with their fallen comrades. In a solemn ceremony, survivors who served on the USS Arizona can have their cremated remains entombed within the hull of the ship – approximately three dozen have done so, joining the more than 1,100 who went down with their ship.
These days, the job of protecting American interests in the USPACOM area of responsibility (AOR) falls to the people of USPACOM and the four service commands. It is a massive job – the AOR reaches from the west coast of the U.S. to the western borders of China and India, more than 50% of the surface area of the world. With 60% of the world’s population, the world’s five largest militaries, five of the world total of seven U.S. mutual defense treaty allies, and sea lanes through which the bulk of world commerce passes, the region is vital to U.S. national interests.
The importance that USAID places on our partnership with USPACOM is demonstrated by the assignment of four USAID advisors to the Command – two Development Advisors and two Humanitarian Assistance Advisors. Working closely together, we are committed to advancing U.S. national interests and USAID developmental objectives in this critical part of the world –responding to humanitarian disasters, building host nation capacity to counter instability and violent extremism; mitigating the effects of climate change; and countering illicit trafficking; and promoting stability, good governance, and regional cooperation in Asia. Although this cooperation takes many forms, it is usually most visible when military forces respond to a USAID and host nation request for support with disaster assistance programs, as was the case just last month when the strongest typhoon to ever hit land devastated parts of the Philippines.
As we pause to remember the sacrifice of those who fell here 72 years ago, we should also remember that the people of USAID and USPACOM continue to work in peaceful ways to achieve the ideals for which our fathers and grandfathers fought not so long ago.
Richard Hough is the USAID Senior Development Advisor to U.S. Pacific Command. A career Foreign Service Officer, he works to maximize interagency cooperation and develop solutions to developmental challenges faced by both civilian and military agencies. His international career has spanned more than thirty years, with assignments in Africa, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Richard served as USAID Mission Director in Romania and Yugoslavia (Serbia/Montenegro), opening the missions in each country in the immediate post-communist period and managing significant democratic, social and economic transition programs, including pro-democracy support that was instrumental in removing President Milosevic from power. As Director of Programming for the USAID Missions to Indonesia and the West Bank and Gaza (Palestine), he managed the development of a new, post-9/11 strategy for USAID programs in Indonesia, the fourth largest country, with the largest Muslim population, in the world. Following the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 26, 2004 Richard developed a $400 million recovery and reconstruction plan for the province of Aceh. In Palestine he managed a $2 billion development assistance portfolio that supported the Israeli-Arab peace process. He is married to Jill Gulliksen, an international development professional with thirty years of program management experience; they have two grown children.