MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- When allies smoothly integrate with each other, both professionally and emotionally, a sliver of a connection is established, becomes reinforced and later woven into an inseparable bond, providing balance in the Indo-Pacific region.
Approximately two decades ago, Team Misawa initiated the maintenance Bilateral Exchange Program, a bi-annual NCO exchange, integrating various Japan Air Self-Defense Force enlisted members into their respective career fields.
“The goal is to strengthen our bilateral partnership and expand interoperability through interaction and hands-on experience,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Scott Layne, the 35th Maintenance Squadron munitions accountable systems officer and Misawa AB BEP coordinator. “With approximately 2,600 Air Force and 3,400 JASDF on Misawa AB, it is imperative we maintain a solid partnership for mission operations.”
Over the course of 10 days, seven Northern-Japan JASDF personnel and seven Air Force members worked alongside each other to practice mission execution, allowing either ally to assist in operations if forward-deployed to another location.
“It’s important to work together with our JADSF counterparts,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Korbin Holloway, a 35th MXS avionics integrated systems technician. “If there came a time we needed to execute the mission together, it would be better to already have an understanding of how we work cohesively.”
Airmen participating in the exchange come from the 35th Force Support Squadron food services, who fuel Team Misawa personnel by providing meals, the 35th MXS AIS, whose mission is supporting aircraft by screening, testing and repairing avionics components and the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron who perform flight checks and carefully inspect aircraft for any errors. Each play critical roles in executing JASDF and Air Force mission priorities through their acquired expertise.
“I think this is a crucial program because the military is changing, and we need to be on the same page when it comes to working together,” said JASDF Tech. Sgt. Kenji Tomita, a 4th Air Wing air traffic controller. “We will most likely have to coordinate with each other in the future, and events like these can help us build off of each other’s experience to enhance our capabilities.”
Not only did the members get to perform together in a work environment but they also bonded on a deeper level going past their rank and uniform.
“It was a reunion for some of our BEP participants,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jermiah Angell, the 35th Operations Support Squadron airfield management NCO in charge. “We constantly work with the JASDF and some of the 3rd Air Wing members here actually knew the members with us but haven’t seen them in 10 years.”
Though the connection between JASDF and USAF may have only been a sliver in 1995, programs such as the Biannual Exchange Program have created a bond between the two that is one of the best examples of partnership in the world today.