Co-Op Program helps strengthen ties

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Co-Op Program helps strengthen ties

by: Takahiro Takiguchi | .
Stripes Okinawa | .
published: September 26, 2016

An intense 10-week immersion program, called Bilateral Cooperative Work Program, aka Co-Op Program, has contributed to successful bilateral relations between the U.S. Army and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force since its founding in 1995.

This program was initiated to provide an opportunity for JGSDF officers and non-commissioned officers from various regions to improve bilateral relations, enhance English comprehension skills, learn about the U.S. military structure and American cultures, familiarize with U.S. Army doctrine and techniques, and educate officers and non-commissioned officers of U.S. Army Japan about Japan and JGSDF. The program is provided four times a year, and 319 officers and 300 non-commissioned officers have already graduated.

Recently, seven JGSDF members of the 81st Co-Op Program worked side-by-side with their American sponsors at Camp Zama. They learned about U.S. military facilities and structure by visiting various bases in different branches, such as Yokota Air Base, Camp Fuji and the U.S. Embassy. The members also had to take the U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test (twice)as well as the Air Force and Marine Corps test. They also engaged in an aerial survey flight by USARJ Aviation Detachment.

The Co-Op is not a one-sided program for JGSDF members, as it offers a great chance for the U.S. Army sponsors to learn Japanese language and culture. They give short briefs in Japanese, and participate in Tokyo cultural tours led by the JGSDF members during the program.

I sat down and talked with program members Takahiro Baba and Eric Cherry when the 81st Co-Op Program visited Stars and Stripes as a part of their trip to Tokyo.

Sgt. 1st Class Takahiro Baba,
1st Anti-Aircraft Direct Support Company, 102nd AADSBn, Walog
(Iizuka City, Fukuoka Prefecture)


Q. What drove you to join the Co-Op Program?
A. I wanted to learn what kind of policy runs the U.S. Army and how the U.S. soldiers accomplish their missions. For personal reasons, I wanted to make American friends through the program to expand my horizon. As a member of [JGSDF], I wanted to gain valuable knowledge and experience bilateral training, and make good use of that in my unit, I believe this will contribute to enhancing our bilateral relationship. I also wanted to improve my English proficiency through the program.

Q. What are you actually learning from the program?
A. I learned about the leadership, roles of master sergeant and non-commissioned officers in the U.S. Army, as well as activities and units located on Camp Zama.

Q. Could you tell us some of your unforgettable experiences with your counterparts during the program? (language or cultural difference, maybe?)
A. I haven’t had problems due to language and culture differences on coping with my American counterpart and program run by English, since I had experienced my five-month travel in the States and have w working as an interpreter during bilateral exercises in Japan before participated in this program.

Q.  How do you think the Co-Op program contributes to a better understanding between U.S. Army and JGSDF?
A. Although this is a rather small-sized program, it contributes to a bilateral understanding between U.S. Army and JGSDF, as an increasing number of graduates will share the experience and knowledge of their counterparts and the system with colleagues in their own unit.


Master Sgt. Eric William Cherry, USARJ G4,4 Senior Property Book Officer
Q. What drove you to join the Co-Op Program?
A. What drove me to join the Co-Op Program was to learn from a fellow ordinance soldier what it is like for him to serve in the JGSDF, as well as experience Japanese culture first hand from someone from Japan.

Q. What are you actually learning from the program?
A. I am learning the differences between the U.S. Army and JGSDF as well as American and Japanese culture. We take a function and compare the difference between how Americans and Japanese do things, talk about the differences, take the best practice and we each learn from our own experiences.

Q. Could you tell us some of your unforgettable experiences with your counterparts during the program? (language or cultural difference, maybe?)
A. The most unforgettable experience for me during this program was learning Japanese and trying the different foods such as the beef and pig tongue. Just seeing the Co-Ops expressions as I spoke Japanese and tried new things in the Japanese culture will be unforgettable; they made so easy for me to try new things.

Q. How do you think the Co-Op program contributes to a better understanding between U.S. Army and JGSDF?
A. I believe it helps us get to know one another and be good stewards of our nations. By getting to know each other on a personal and professional level and having good experiences, we both will take that back to our home units and help encourage others to have a better understanding of one another and encourage others to create a strong bind between the U.S. Army and JGSDF.

Q. Is there anything you want to add?
A. I just want to say thank you to the whole Co-Op class. Each of them has made my stay in Japan better than I ever expected, and I would have not done as much without them.