YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Kevin B. Schneider assumed command of United States Forces Japan and 5th Air Force from Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez before a crowd of U.S. and Japanese service members, Government of Japan officials, dignitaries and community leaders during a ceremony here, Feb. 5.
U.S. Navy Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command presided over the U.S. Forces Japan change of command and U.S. Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., commander of Pacific Air Forces, presided over the 5th Air Force change of command.
Davidson recognized the two outstanding leaders and acknowledged the ironclad U.S.-Japan Alliance.
“At the heart of (the) Japan-U.S. Alliance are the amazing Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen,” Davidson said. “They stand ready to deter our adversaries and fight and win should deterrence fail, in order to safeguard our interests and preserve our way of life.”
Brown also expressed his gratitude and trust in both commanders as they prepared to execute the change of command.
“This is a special day for Pacific Air Forces as we transfer responsibility to lead 5th Air Force and honor two outstanding Airmen…Airmen that I’ve personally known for over 20 years,” said Brown. “To be called upon to lead Airmen at this level is a humbling responsibility, and today’s ceremony reminds us of the service, sacrifice, and dedication we share as Airmen serving our great nation.”
In his final address to the 54,000 men and women of U.S. Forces Japan, Martinez recollected the hard work and dedication of USFJ to enhance regional security and strengthen the U.S.–Japan Alliance through the execution of joint, multilateral exercises, and close coordination with the Japanese government. But he also left the people of Japan with a heartfelt message.
“As I leave here, I can say I’m proud to have been the commander,” said Martinez who will retire after 33 years of service. “But the thing that I’m truly proud of, and that I will tell everybody in the world is, I’m proud to have lived in the great country of Japan.”
Schneider previously served as the Chief of Staff of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. He is a command pilot with more than 3,800 flight hours and 530 combat flight hours during operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
No stranger to Japan, Schneider reflected on some of his memories as a child, when his father was stationed in Yokosuka as a naval officer.
“Some of my earliest memories as a kid were living in Japan – living in Nagai specifically, running around in local villages, seeing the local sights, traveling with my family and just being exposed to the amazing culture.”
Schneider would later return to Japan a second time as a young captain flying F-16s at Misawa Air Base and recalled his close relationships with his Japan Air Self Defense Force partners.
Not wasting any time, Schneider addressed the importance of the U.S.–Japan Alliance, training and readiness and the evolving security challenges in the region.
“Because of the clear threats to peace and security in this region, we must maintain the highest levels of readiness to respond at a moment’s notice to any threat, to any crisis, to any humanitarian disaster,” remarked Schneider. “Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen give the United States a vital forward-deployed capability that deters aggression, aids in Japan’s defense, helps strengthen partnerships with other countries in the region, and enhances regional peace and security.”
For more than 60 years, the U.S.–Japan Alliance has been the cornerstone of stability and security in the Indo-Pacific and will continue to play that role in the future.