KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- For the first time at Kadena Air Base, joint live-fire training between the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron and Japanese Self-Defense Force (JASDF) firefighters from Naha Air Base occurred as part of a new knowledge exchange agreement, August 7, 2018.
Previously, the training for JASDF occurred on mainland Japan at either Misawa Air Base or Yokota Air Base, explained Tech. Sgt. Michael Gagnier, 18th CES NCO-in-charge of training.
The new agreement between JASDF and the U.S. Air Force – developed over the past year – allowed the partners to compare methods and tactics used in emergencies, exchange, and complete required refresher training.
From lighting a mock airframe on fire, to putting out the flames as a team, the training was the first opportunity for the two units to operate together in a live exercise since finalizing the agreement.
“Our goal is the same as firefighters … Our goal is to save lives and save property,” said Mitsuo Yamaguchi, 18th CES training assistant. “The best way to complete that mission is to do what we’re doing – joint training.”
The exercise gave members from the 18th CES an opportunity to observe the different equipment the Naha AB fire department has and gave JASDF members an opportunity to see how Team Kadena operates in the event of an emergency.
“Working with the Naha Air Base firefighters is a unique opportunity because they have a lot of different gear than what we have,” Gagnier said. “It allows us to see different options that are out there for firefighter gear as well as different tactics.”
Training with other nations gives Team Kadena a chance to learn and apply different solutions to the same problem, allowing for an opportunity to potentially improve current operating procedures.
“We don’t know what skills or knowledge the other side brings,” Yamaguchi said. “This exercise is a chance to get to know how each other operate.”
With all of the positive takeaways from the training, there was still a major obstacle between the two units –the language barrier. By conducting this training, the two sides were able to find a solution to the barrier with new communication techniques that could make the difference in the field between life and death.
“Even if you don’t understand the other language, you still have to communicate,” Yamaguchi said. “When you have the full gear on, we can’t talk like normal. Therefore, we created hand signals – that way the message is received without the language barrier.”
After a successful new training experience, both sides look forward to continuing the training by visiting Naha AB and learning the different tactics used by the JASDF firefighters – enabling both units to continue protecting Okinawans and U.S. members alike, explained Gagnier.