December 4, 2008 (by SSgt. Kelly White) - JASDF members at Komatsu AB, Japan, are hosting more than 80 Misawa Airmen through the week during a JASDF and U.S. air-to-air training event that will increase operational readiness and bilateral interoperability for both forces and foster the U.S.-Japan alliance.
USAF F-16C block 50 #90-0808 from the 14th FS taxis to the runway at the JASDF's 6th Air Wing in Komatsu on December 2nd, 2008. [USAF photo by SSgt. Kelly White]
"Aviation Training Relocation events are exclusively between the U.S. and Japan," said Lt. Col. David Youtsey, 35th Operations Group deputy commander and ATR
detachment commander. "They allow U.S. Forces - Air Force, Marines and Navy - to become familiar with capabilities of JASDF bases, allowing us to help identify opportunities to improve military capabilities across a broad spectrum, from logistics to support to operations procedures."
During the course of the week, 13th Fighter Squadron and JASDF pilots will fly four different types of air-to-air missions to better ensure both forces' war-fighting effectiveness.
While all of the 13th FS
pilots flying during the event have had prior experience with flying air-to-air sorties with pilots from other nations - this week in Komatsu is the first time participating in an ATR event for all but two of them.
"I flew with JASDF pilots earlier this year when their F-2s came to Misawa," said 13th FS Pilot Capt. Brian Suh. "From that experience I learned that both nations have a strict adherence to training orders which made it easy to train with them, even though we didn't speak the same language. This week's ATR will give me experience flying with JASDF F-15 pilots, testing our machine and theirs, and strengthening the ties between our two nations."
But, Col. Youtsey said, this ATR isn't only about pilots flying sorties with their Japanese counterparts.
"It's also about all of the Airmen here supporting the event becoming acquainted with their Japanese equivalents and strengthening the relationship between our countries, on both a professional and personal level," the colonel said.
And at the close of the opening day's sorties, JASDF and Misawa personnel blended for an evening of ice-breaking and socializing.
"I met about 20 JASDF enlisted weather observers at the social," said Staff Sgt. Cody Hansen, 35th Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster. "We spent the evening talking about the differences between how JASDF and the U.S. interpret and forecast weather, and how differently we man and operate our weather flights.
Sergeant Hansen added that while the time they spent talking with JASDF members in that social environment was enjoyable, it has also helped their interactions on the job.
"After the social, it's easier to communicate while we're working," the sergeant said. "They're more comfortable speaking English to me now, and instead of just listening to what I'm saying, they're also asking me questions. This helps us all understand each other more."
When the week is done and Misawa Airmen head back to their home base, Colonel Youtsey said there's something valuable that every one should take back with them.
"I'm looking forward to briefing, flying and debriefing, safe missions, to strengthening the professional relationships all of us will develop over the week and to each deployed Airman returning home with an increased understanding of the Japanese customs and culture," he said. "Finally, I look forward to going back to Misawa having left a good, lasting impression of the U.S. on the people of Komatsu."