MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Cheers fill the ballroom as Senior Master Sgt. Paul Riley, the 35th Maintenance Squadron armament flight chief, walks across the stage. He greets the Japanese leaders and presenters with a bow, instead of the typical handshake. Riley flashes a smile as he receives the prestigious Japan America Air Force Goodwill Association (JAAGA) award.
The JAAGA award honors individuals who greatly contribute to improving the friendship and bond between U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) members. It represents the hard work and dedication of each service in growing and maintaining the bilateral relationship.
Riley earned the recognition for his efforts in leading the 35th Fighter Wing’s bilateral relations team. He coordinated various exchanges and visits between the two nations, bridging the gap and bringing the two nations closer both as allies and friends.
“He has worked directly with the JASDF education division to further develop bilateral relations, enhance interoperability and further prepare JASDF personnel for future missions,” said Col. R. Scott Jobe, the 35th Fighter Wing commander. “His efforts contributed to three successful visits to Misawa Air Base, Japan, by 23 Japanese Airmen, and he has coordinated an American visit to Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, by 10 American Airmen.”
Riley was once on the other side of the JAAGA community as a staff sergeant and a participant in the bilateral exchange program versus the coordinator he is now. Receiving the JAAGA award is a full circle moment for him.
“Motivation for me began years ago when I participated in the bilateral exchange program while stationed at Kadena Air Base, Japan,” Riley reminisced. “The experience was overwhelmingly positive, and I really enjoyed it. Not only did I make great friends but the experience also made me understand the need for Japan and the U.S. to come together as one. Even back then, the greatest emphasis was on the two nations building a strong alliance.”
Since Riley left his hometown of Stockton, Georgia, to make a positive impact in the world, receiving this award made him feel accomplished and grateful.
“I am unbelievably humbled for being chosen as the JAAGA recipient,” said Riley. “I am forever grateful and very thankful for the opportunity to participate in this program. It’s beyond fulfilling.”
Beyond inspiring gratitude and thankfulness, receiving the JAAGA award also positively changed Riley as person.
“It makes me value friendship and experiences much more. I feel lucky to be able to work alongside JASDF,” Riley continued. “My advice is to take advantage of the time you have here overseas and cherish relationships and bonds with your counterparts. I wouldn’t be receiving this recognition without my bilateral coordinators, so I must thank them for their continued partnership and support.”