KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Select U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen stationed across Okinawa attended classes at the Erwin Professional Military Education Center on Kadena Air Base, Japan, for the Okinawa Joint Experience (OJE) from Sept. 25 to Sept. 27.
The OJE was designed to give service members an opportunity to come together and learn in a joint environment. Students were split into four classes, each with a mix of 12 service members from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.
“The course is for junior non-commissioned officers and petty officers to foster dynamic leadership and collaborate in a joint environment,” said Sgt. 1st Class Wesley Bates, OJE Green Team instructor. “During the OJE, some of the focus areas we taught were profession of arms; service cultures, customs and courtesies, building partnerships, ethical dilemmas, social media, and standards and discipline.”
To start the course off, Chief Master Sgt. Terrence Green, U.S. Forces Japan command chief, spoke to the class about the importance of joint warfare and understanding service cultures.
“This class was an introductory level for them to get some joint experience,” Green said. “I love that Okinawa-based forces get to share their knowledge with each other and learn more about service cultures, morale, and dealing with discipline on the battlefield.”
During the OJE, teams were pitted against each other for the Joint Force Fitness Challenge which comprised of a push-ups challenge, combat fitness challenge, tug-of-war and a jump rope challenge designed to test the entire class on teamwork.
“The combat fitness challenge was a test of every aspect, physical, mental and emotional,” said Staff Sgt. Monty Baze, OJE Green Team student.
The fitness challenge was set to mimic obstacles faced in the battlefield such as, sprinting, running ammunition cans, transporting wounded personnel to safety and tossing simulated grenades. Each team competed for the best time, however the final challenge brought all four teams together.
“The challenge was the breaking point where we put our pride and our egos about our services aside and we really started working together,” Baze added. “Everyone came out and gave 100% if not more.”
With lasting bonds forged on the field, students returned to the classroom for a few more lessons, a joint service panel featuring leadership from multiple branches and closing remarks from the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command senior enlisted leader.
“In the USINDOPACOM we talk about partnerships with a purpose and enduring friendships that matter. Friends get stuff done and that’s how we are going to fight,” said Sgt. Maj. Anthony Spadaro, USINDOPACOM senior enlisted advisor. “The best part about a friend is that they’re going to tell you when you screwed up, what you need to improve and how to do it better. We are war fighters and not one service is going into a fight alone.”
After graduating the course, service members returned to their units ready to share their new found knowledge.
“My experience in the OJE is unparalleled to anything else I've encountered,” Baze exclaimed. “One of the biggest things that stood out for me was being submerged in the other services’ culture. I definitely learned a lot, I highly recommend this course to all tiers in the military.”