CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- Four U.S. Army Soldiers and six Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members met here June 24 for an inaugural exchange program to discuss their experiences as women in their respective workforces.
The bilateral discussion, the first of its kind on the installation, covered topics such as career development, child care, and balancing work and home life. The intent was that participants would gain a better understanding of each other’s unique professional experiences and the challenges that can sometimes come with them, event organizers said.
“We shared our experiences and culture as females in the force to learn about our familiarities and differences while simultaneously building strong relationships,” said Staff Sgt. Jenny Cuevas, assigned to 88th Military Police Detachment here.
Cuevas asked the JGSDF members about things such as their living arrangements and how their culture or family is supportive of their career choice. In hearing their answers, Cuevas said she discovered a few things.
The first was that junior enlisted JGSDF members typically share a room with up to three roommates, which Cuevas said the JGSDF members told her allows them to form a strong bond with each other. The second thing Cuevas learned was that Japan is slowly growing in acceptance of the idea of women in the service. All six members said their families were supportive of their career choice.
Cuevas said she also learned that the Army and JGSDF have similarities in regard to rules and regulations they must follow, an emphasis on order and discipline, and the sense of duty and pride that comes with honorably representing their countries.
“I certainly gained more appreciation for what I do, and for what they do,” Cuevas said.
Cuevas said she thought it was a good idea to meet with other women in the JGSDF on a regular basis because the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Japan can always be improved.
“There is always something to learn from each other, and the only way to do it is to talk [to each other],” Cuevas said. “Growth is a continuous process.”
JGSDF Master Sgt. Masako Ochiai said the exchange was her first experience interacting on a personal level with female U.S. Soldiers.
Ochiai, a mother of two, said she was personally interested in learning about child care and other support systems available in the U.S. Army from a woman’s perspective. She discovered there were of course some differences between the Army and the JGSDF in that regard, but both sides agreed that family support is critical when trying to pursue a career.
“It was a great experience to talk face to face with female U.S. Soldiers and learn the differences in each of our services,” Ochiai said.
Ochiai said she and the other participants were so engaged in the discussions that the time “flew by” and when the event was over, everyone wished there was more time.
“I hope we are able to continue this bilateral female engagement program in order to build a constructive relationship in the future,” Ochiai said.