MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWKAUNI, Japan -- Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan- Throughout the decades, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni has celebrated the friendship between two nations with an annual air show. The event has provided two cultures with a unique experience as they come together to share a day of live performances, vendors and fun.
“Friendship Day is a community relations event that started in 1973,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Dwain Donaldson, the deputy director for Friendship Day. “This year will be the 42nd Friendship Day and the fourth year we’ve worked hand in hand with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).”
According to Donaldson, the airshow attracts a diverse amount of people from the local area as well as all over Japan. Crowds of people gather to see not only the live performances but the demonstration of capabilities between the U.S. armed forces and the JMSDF.
“MCAS Iwakuni works closely with the JMSDF, the city of Iwakuni and many other agencies in order to successfully execute this great event,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Richard Fuerst, commanding officer of MCAS Iwakuni. “It highlights our common interests, our common goals and demonstrates that we need to have mutual cooperation in order to support our alliance here in the Indo-Asia Pacific, and, maybe most importantly, it is also a lot of fun no matter what nationality you are.”
Some of the demonstrations and performances this year included the U.S. Army Golden Knight’s aerial parachute demonstration team, Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-2 demonstration team, U.S. Air Force F-16 demonstration team, and several Marine Corps aerial performances and static displays.
This year, the Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II conducted its first ever display of its aerial capabilities in the Pacific Region. Its aerial acrobatics impressed the crowed as it revealed its unique capabilities.
Last year’s Friendship Day attracted approximately 200,000 people who flocked to the air station. The number of attendees has steadily grown since the first introduction of the air show. Hundreds of thousands of attendees have received a once in a lifetime opportunity to see some of the capabilities of these military entities first hand.
“Something that I think is important for Friendship Day is that we do a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) demonstration, which is a combination of aviation and ground,” said Donaldson.
The MAGTF demonstration was a combination of ground and air assets to showcase interoperability. It utilized both fixed-wing and tiltrotor aircraft like the MV-22B Osprey, KC-130 J Super Hercules, tactical jets and elements like Explosive Ordnance Disposal and a simulated tactical insert with Marines.
MCAS Iwakuni is an important strategic base to both Japan and the United States,” said Fuerst. “On MCAS Iwakuni we have the U.S. Marine Corps Marine Air Group 12 (MAG-12), Navy Carrier Air Wing 5 (CVW-5) and JMSDF Fleet Air Wing 31 (FAW-31), which is a unique combination of forces not only in Japan but anywhere in the world.
This partnership is very important to our collective success in the region. MCAS Iwakuni gives our civilian diplomats, both American and Japanese, the ability to negotiate from a position of strength. The fact that we co-host this event with our close allies, JMSDF FAW-31, highlights the level of our cooperation. We hold Friendship Day to show the local citizens our appreciation.”
The air show brings more than just aerial acrobatics to all those who attend. It provides a window into the world of how far two nations have come together throughout the years as operational entities and a community.
“Friendship Day is a very important day for the Marine Corps and specifically MCAS Iwakuni,” said Fuerst. “MCAS Iwakuni is grateful to be a part of the community here in Iwakuni, the surrounding cities and within the Yamaguchi and Hiroshima prefectures. We have a great relationship, and we are very interested in maintaining that relationship. Friendship Day is just one of the ways we show our appreciation to the citizens of Japan and to also provide more transparency into the kind of operations we conduct here on MCAS Iwakuni.”