18th Wing Airmen deploy for ATR, build relationships with allies
TSUIKI AIR BASE, Japan -- More than 150 U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 18th Wing and 12 F-15 Eagles from the 44th Fighter Squadron deployed here for a two-week Aviation Training Relocation beginning Aug. 21.
The ATR gave the Airmen the opportunity to train and interact with Japan Air Self-Defense Force members, but they're taking full advantage of their time on- and off-duty.
The 44th FS 44th Aircraft Maintenance Unit Airmen have been spending their free time visiting schools and a daycare in the local community to help teach some of the children English and new games, but Lt. Col. Nick Register, 44th FS pilot, said they're also learning just as much.
"I really love coming out here and spending time with these kids," said Register. "I have children of my own, and these are the same types of things I would do with them."
Apart from visiting schools, the squadrons also teamed up and braved the rain with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to carry an Omikoshi (portable shrine) during a summer festival.
"Interacting with the local community is a big part of being good ambassadors and neighbors," said Airman 1st Class Ryan Lavoie, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron logistics planner. "It's important to take the time to try and make a difference where you can."
Aviation Training Relocations increase operational readiness and bilateral interoperability for both U.S. and Japanese forces. They allow U.S. and JASDF forces to strengthen relations and develop mutual trust, ultimately strengthening the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance.
"I have really enjoyed being up here in mainland and working side by side with my JASDF counterparts," said Lavoie. "We have all had a really good time, and I would love to come back to work with them again if given the opportunity."
The U.S.-Japan security alliance has remained the cornerstone of peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region for 50 years.
Aside from ATRs, the 18th Wing participates in a variety of annual exercises designed to improve interoperability with the JASDF as well as engage in a variety of training operations to include aerial refueling training and air-to-air training with F-15 crews at Naha Air Base.