MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- The Misawa Airman Leadership School (ALS) hosted 20 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) soldiers from the 6th Division, Camp Jinmachi, Yamagata, Japan, at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Feb. 12, 2020.
The soldiers were a part of a JGSDF Basic English Course and used the visit as an opportunity to have face-to-face interaction with U.S. Airmen in the ALS class 20-B.
For some of the U.S. Airmen and JGSDF soldiers, this was their first time closely interacting with military members from another country.
“I think this was pretty cool because everyone has perceptions of how (others) operate or how they work, but you get to see they are people too,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Leonel Acosta, a 35th Communications Squadron radio frequency transmission system technician. “You get to communicate, have fun, and see you have a lot of similarities but a lot of differences, too.”
The 35th Fighter Wing hosts several JGSDF Basic English Course visits a year, with JGSDF soldiers coming from various units across Japan. The visits vary in how they are conducted depending on the competency level of the JGSDF soldiers’ English.
Visits can range from partnering JGSDF soldiers with U.S. military personnel who perform similar tasks to their jobs for a few hours to more informal speaking opportunities like eating lunch with the ALS students.
“These engagements allow us to interact with military members of another country on a personal level, and not see each other solely as armed forces personnel,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Shara Carlisle, the Misawa ALS assistant commandant and instructor.
The JGSDF soldiers visiting this time were in a less intensive English course, so as a way to further connect with each other and lessen the stress that can come with speaking a foreign language, some of the U.S. Airmen invited them to play video games.
“In my job, I don’t get to work with them very much,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Aaron Maddox, a 35th Civil Engineer Squadron heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technician. “They come and do training days every now and then, but just sitting there talking can get nerve-racking and it feels more formal.”
Maddox believes getting away from the more formal interactions and doing more fun things, such as playing video games, allows people to loosen up, show who they really are and have more meaningful interactions.
As representatives of their respective countries and members who have the potential to work side by side as allies in the protection of U.S. interests in the Pacific and the defense of Japan, these professional and personal relationships can go a long way ensuring service members from both countries can not only communicate effectively but enjoy working together as well.
“I hope the students have a better appreciation for serving as an ambassador between the United States and Japan and the impact of a positive relationship with our host nation,” Carlisle said.