USAF, JASDF participate in NCO bilateral exchange
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Approximately eight U.S. Air Force and Army service members participated in a Japan Air Self-Defense Force NCO exchange recently here.
The purpose of bilateral exchanges between the JASDF and U.S. military is to create a better understanding of how the U.S. military operates, as well as foster good community relations with the host nation.
"The exchange we have right now is between the U.S. forces and the JASDF in the different fields of aircraft maintenance and other base agencies," said Senior Master Sgt. Cesar Acevedo, 909th Aircraft Maintenance Unit flight chief and 18th Wing/JASDF bilateral coordinator. "We are trying to create a common bond between the (JASDF) capabilities and our capabilities, and to know each other's actions in case we have to work together in the future."
Not only did various agencies such as the civil engineer and communication squadrons participate in this exchange, but the U.S. Army, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment also provided two soldiers to work with JASDF Army members.
"At the moment, we are responding to the needs of the JASDF," Acevedo said. "This time they requested the Army and have two Army members that needed to have some interaction with U.S. forces so they put that on their request, and the Army was able to come forward. It also takes a lot of coordination from the JASDF up in Tokyo, Japan, related to funds availability and also what kind of benefit the JASDF will draw from this exchange."
In order to be chosen for this program, JASDF members must submit a package, which is then sent to a review board to ensure requesters meet proper rank and job requirements. Finally, the top performers are selected to participate in this exchange.
"The goal of the JASDF and the U.S. Military is kind of the same, but we have different minds and rules, so this exchange program helps us to get closer, work together so when we have an emergency, we can work together," Tsuruta said. "Most JASDF (members) don't know what goes on here, so I want to pass along information like how the U.S. military really is and I want to help change their minds. This relationship is very important so I don't want this program to stop after this exchange."
Acevedo said he would like to open up the program to other U.S. military branches such as the U.S. Marine Corps and the Navy.
"We want to open this up to everyone, all military forces from the U.S., to partake with the JASDF and just be a team," Acevedo said. "It's a bilateral partnership that we have and, as a whole, that's the end goal of the JASDF and U.S.: to strengthen the bilateral partnerships that we have with the host nation."
During this exchange, Tech. Sgt. Tatsuya Tsuruta, JASDF civil engineer construction worker, worked with Staff Sgt. Billy Starks, 718th CES construction manager, and learned many things such as how to work a wood grinding machine and the basics of construction management.
"I've learned unit organization and how the U.S. military are separated (into different units) so you are very well organized," Tsuruta said. "I haven't worked close with the U.S. military before so this is my first time."
Due to Starks and his creativity, Tsuruta was able to work with a machine he had never worked with before.
"This is a Morbark Tub Grinder, which grinds tree trunks, tree limbs, and other wood debris from around Kadena after typhoons," said Staff Sgt. Paul Mitchell, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron pavements and equipment craftsmen. "If Starks didn't think outside the box and bring Tsuruta to us, he would not have seen the other side of his allied nation doing their thing or learn something cool and new because he does not have anything like this in their equipment training or operations."
Tsuruta added that now that he's worked with the machine and taken pictures, he can explain to his peers how to use the machine if they were to ever need to use it.
The main challenge Starks and Tsuruta came across was communication.
"My being here in the exchange program has taught me that the communication is more important before starting work because we have to be able to communicate if we're going to work with the U.S. military so I have to be able to speak English," Tsuruta said. "I really appreciate that you guys offer this exchange program to us and I would like for this to continue."
"The language barrier was my biggest challenge, I think if I didn't know basic Japanese, maybe it would have been just a bit harder," Starks said. "Sometimes we think there are a lot of differences but after working with them, I noticed a lot of similarities. I was able to teach him and he was just working like a regular CE troop and the guys in his career field, they use a lot of our same software, equipment and techniques so when we're accomplishing the mission, I know a JASDF person can come to Kadena and get the mission done just like us."
Acevedo added that as long as the U.S. is available, and the JASDF are willing to participate, the program will continue.
"The fact that we have an incredible support from the host nation here, like when I deployed to Cope North, they are extremely disciplined maintainers, they are ready and prepared, very serious about their job and take their responsibility very seriously and that's the same projection that we have with them, is important," Acevedo said. "Also, the agencies on Kadena are extremely open and helpful to these exchanges. Kadena is open to the JASDF as much as the JASDF is open to the U.S. Forces, it is all about strengthening the bilateral partnership that we have and at the end of the day that is why we are here, to create long lasting relationships with the JASDF and to make sure that if we do have to come to the defense of the nation we will be able to operate without any problems."