Building bonds and breaking bread

by Staff Sgt. Jessica H. Smith
Kadena Air Base

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Team Kadena recently hosted the 2018 Japanese Air Self-Defense Force Bilateral Exchange at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The exchange consisted of JASDF, U.S. Air Force and Army members coming together for 10 days of workplace and cultural integration.

The 5th Air Force initiative is meant to promote U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s priorities of peaceful development, contingency response and aggression deterrence within the region.

“The goal for this bilateral exchange is to build our partnership and increase mission capability through communication and career experience,” said Tech Sgt. Jairek Kahai, USAF exchange participant. “Having bilateral operations and relationships is crucial to enhancing both the U.S. and Japans capabilities and mission effectiveness.”

In order to build a better partnership, the exchange included a historical brief and tour, mission briefs, physical training, base and island tours, professional enhancement seminars, worksite visits, infiltration and exfiltration demonstration, sports day and lastly – a traditional Thanksgiving.

With JASDF members from Okinawa as well as over seven bases on mainland, the exchange helped build partnerships and promote stability in the region, explained Master Sgt. Michael Gillette, US/JASDF bilateral exchange coordinator.

“This is important due to ongoing relations we have in the Indo-Pacific region,” Gillette said, “Be it there is a contingency – or more likely – a humanitarian assistance, [or] a disaster response assistance, this’ll allow us to work closely in an easier fashion.”

While the exchange may have been planned around allowing JASDF members to experience a traditional American holiday, building a bond with allied forces to help ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific was the main goal – and a successful one, explained Kahai.

“It’s imperative that Kadena Air Base maintain a solid partnership for mission success,” he said. “Kadena Air Base is only one location in Japan … Strengthening our partnership with our JASDF members will expand our interoperability.”

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