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US, Japan Break Barriers, Reinforce Partnership during Exchange

By Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert | 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs | Dec. 12, 2016

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force ( JASDF) service members engaged in a bilateral exchange program (BEP) at Misawa Air Base, Japan, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 9, to increase interoperability and break down language barriers.

Conducted by Fifth Air Force since 1995, this year’s BEP featured eight enlisted and two officers from JASDF bases across northern Japan who integrated with their respective career fields. JASDF participants paired with maintenance officers, avionics specialists and crew chiefs.

“The goal is to strengthen our bilateral partnership and expand interoperability through interaction and hands-on experience,” said Senior Master Sgt. Paul Riley, the 35th Maintenance Squadron armament flight chief. “They also did so without any translation assistance. JASDF members learning in an all-English environment helps them overcome language barriers.”

Riley explained this particular exchange focused on the 35th Maintenance Group (MXG) and was held during a surge, one of the busiest times for Misawa’s MXG personnel.

A surge allows maintenance personnel and pilots to evaluate and validate their capacity to generate aircraft in a simulated deployed environment.

“We’re trying to put as many jets in the air as we can during surges,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Ransom, a 14th Aircraft Maintenance Unit F-16 Fighting Falcon avionics technician. “It never hurts to have extra bodies helping prepare jets.”

During this time, maintenance personnel and pilots worked 24-hour operations and focused on increasing performance from 46 to 104 sorties over three days, while working with their counterparts.

“Interoperability is highly important,” said Riley. “It builds bilateral relations with our Pacific partners while promoting goodwill between our services as well as our countries.”

Many regional nations share the U.S. Air Force’s goal for cooperation that promotes greater mutual understanding and trust; holding bilateral exchanges enables the Pacific theatre to continue to modernize and strengthen the alliance and partnerships with JASDF.

“It was a good experience,” said Japan Air Self-Defense Force Staff Sgt. Narihito Tanaka, a 3rd Air Wing avionics technician. “I saw the operational differences we had in maintenance, and I was impressed with the USAF maintenance’s organization. I want to use this knowledge in future bilateral exercises in order to execute them more smoothly.”

Riley said future exchanges will look to incorporate other squadrons as Misawa looks forward to expanding interoperability with our JASDF partners through exercises and hands-on training.
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