JASDF Airmen visit Kadena, strengthen working relationships
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Members of the Japan Air Self Defense Force's 404th Air Refueling Squadron and Kadena's 909th ARS came together for a meeting to reinforce their working relationships Jan. 22.
The 909th ARS assisted JASDF with air refueling training in 2007, eventually leading JASDF to create the 404th ARS in 2009.
"Since then, both units attended a few training exercises together but have never met to specifically discuss our continuing relationship," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Burdick, 909th ARS commander.
The meeting on Friday consisted of a visit to the 909th ARS building, a mission briefing, a tour of the KC-135 Stratotanker, and lunch at the Kadena Marina.
The common link shared by both squadrons was their work with air refueling tankers. This set the foundation for a healthy professional relationship.
"The KC-135 and KC-767 aircrafts bring similar but different capabilities to Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief scenarios," said Burdick. "For example, the KC-767 can carry significantly more cargo and the KC-135 is a very efficient airborne tanker. Exchanging ideas and standard practices enables both units to exchange differing perspectives to collectively improve allied tanker capabilities."
The meeting allowed the 404th and the 909th to strengthen their relationship. The commander of the 404th, Lt. Col. Takahiro Seki, expressed his gratitude to the 909th for their assistance in the creation of the 404th.
Seki commented that the 909th has been like a parental figure to the 404th as they have continued to develop as an air refueling squadron.
"Our goal is in the future, that we can develop and come to a point where the 909th and the 404th are working together on the same platform and together we can integrate air refueling operations to the point where we can both help each other and carry the mission out," said Seki.
Both ARS teams discussed their work, but amidst discussion of work, personal friendships began to form as well. Staff Sgt. Chance Italiano, 909th ARS instructor boom operator and boom flight scheduler, commented on how even though they are from different countries, they were able to form friendships.
"It's really cool to meet people from different countries that do the same thing that you do," said Italiano. "It's so easy to forge that friendship because you have that common ground. You do the same thing, just in a different country and different military. I can't wait to see those guys again."
As the day came to an end, both ARS teams found it difficult to leave.
Seki mentioned that the 909th and Lt. Col. Burdick not only demonstrated hospitality at the professional level, but also at the personal level. Burdick took extra time to ensure that Seki's questions were answered and that he and his Airmen felt welcome.
"I feel that the 909th not only created a great platform today in terms of friendship, but also technical knowledge that will help to develop greater ties in the future," said Seki.