Students look at a U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk assigned to the 33rd Rescue Squadron during Air Force Immersion Day, Sept. 23, 2019, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. During the tour, students learned about the unit’s role in supporting Airmen from the 31st Rescue Squadron in personnel recovery, humanitarian aid, disaster relief and tactical combat casualty care. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Air Force Immersion Day is a new community engagement program developed to teach local college and vocational students about Kadena’s mission and its role in supporting the U.S. and Japanese alliance. Eighteen students visited the base for a tour Sept. 23.
The students started the day by meeting the 18th Mission Support Group commander, Col. Thang Doan, followed by a mission brief. The group then went on to learn about the Status of Forces Agreement and legal preceding’s from the 18th Wing Legal office.
“Today, I had a great opportunity to see Kadena,” said Yu Ameku, a University of Maryland University College student. “It’s kind of like a big city. There are police officers, supermarkets and gas stations. The base even has lawyers.”
Next, the students visited Hangar 1 where they met with a KC-135 Stratotanker boom operator to learn about aerial refueling.
“The students were really engaged and they asked a lot of questions. I think it’s important for them to know that we support our allies and how we help protect the Indo-Pacific region,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Harmon, 909th Aerial Refueling Squadron boom operator. “We talked about our capabilities including aeromedical evacuations, aerial refueling and cargo missions.”
An F-15 Eagle pilot also spoke to the students about the F-15’s offensive and defensive counter-air mission and the jets ability to neutralize enemy air threats through combat operations or deterrence.
After viewing an F-15 static display, students put their newfound knowledge about the Eagle and the Stratotanker into practice with an interactive physical challenge to simulate each aircraft’s mission.
“I’ve lived here for 20 years and before the tour, I didn’t know how the Air Force operated in country,” said Ameku. “Okinawa is full of negative opinions about U.S. military bases, but I think opportunities like these, that help us understand each other, are really important.”
For lunch, the students dined at the Exchange where they tried American cuisine and talked with Airmen from units across the base.
“At first, I was worried about chatting at lunch because I’m not good at speaking English, but I had a lot of fun,” said Takehiro Yabe, a University of the Ryukyus student. “It was very clear that everyone wanted to talk to us and they took great pride in their work.”
The students later visited the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron, where they learned about engine maintenance, occupational and aircraft safety, and accountability. They also learned how the 18th Security Forces Squadron also invited the Okinawa Prefectural Police to educate students about their bilateral partnership and combined effort to combat and reduce drunken driving on island.
“I think it is important for the U.S. military to be stationed in Okinawa because they maintain not only peace for Okinawa or Japan but the entire Indo-Pacific,” Ameku explained. “Before I thought the U.S. military only prepared for battle but now I know that they conduct humanitarian aid for several countries. I learned a lot today. Thank you for giving us such a wonderful experience.”