CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- U.S. Army Japan Soldiers and designated Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) liaison officers are now authorized to wear a new uniform patch that symbolizes their enduring bilateral relationship.
The patch, which combines both the U.S. and Japan flags, was officially presented during a ceremony at Yano Sports Field on Friday, capping off a week of events in honor of the Army’s 247th birthday.
With a subdued design and worn on the left shoulder sleeve, the patch signifies to those who wear it that they are part of something greater than themselves, said Maj. Gen. JB Vowell, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan (USARJ).
“We’re members of a tight community with a combined patch from the U.S. flag and the Japan flag to symbolize that unity,” Vowell told hundreds of U.S. Soldiers and JGSDF members in formation.
He added the patch represents the command’s commitment to the defense of Japan and its mission with Japan on the knife’s edge of freedom to protect partners and allies from potential adversaries.
“You are all part of history being made today in the most consequential region at the most consequential time,” he said. “Together, [this patch shows] our resolve to stand with our partners in all aspects to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific with our anchoring allies and friends in Japan.”
Sgt. Jeymi Rodriguez, a helicopter mechanic assigned to U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan, was one of the Soldiers who donned the new patch during the ceremony.
Rodriguez said she often interacts with her Japanese counterparts at Kastner Airfield here and enjoys the teamwork found in the welcoming environment there.
“I think it’s something that is very special,” she said of the patching ceremony. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event and it will definitely bring us more together.”
Spc. Hitsen Gonzalez, a human resources specialist with 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, also liked how the patch displays a stronger sense of unity.
“It shows how we are together, moving forward as a combined partnership,” he said.
Gonzalez, who has served in Japan for about three years, described the country as an amazing place with friendly people. During his time here, he has had the opportunity to play sports with his Japanese partners while also sharing knowledge with them during exercises.
“We teach them, they teach us,” he said. “We learn from each other.”
The JGSDF members also appreciated the new addition to their uniforms.
“When I first saw it, I was very happy,” said Sgt. 1st Class Hisaka Oda, who serves as a document clerk for the 4th Engineer Group in the JGSDF. “It’s great.”
Oda, who participated in a unit run with U.S. Soldiers to start the Army Week festivities, said the cultural exchange he frequently has with Americans has been an enriching experience.
“I look forward to interacting with them during events, English conversation classes, and celebrations,” Oda said. “Congratulations on the anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Army.”
Sgt. 3rd Class Riku Ito, a deputy squad leader in JGSDF’s 4th Engineer Group, said the patch helps demonstrate that both nations work closely together and could strengthen their partnership.
“I think it will further deepen the friendship between Japan and the United States,” Ito said.
Army Week awards
The ceremony also recognized award winners in several fitness and sporting events held during Army Week.
In the week’s first event, the fittest warrior competition, Capt. Allison Gregory, of U.S. Army Medical Department Activity-Japan, and Capt. James Bassette, of U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan, secured the titles of fittest female and male Soldiers, respectively.
A team that represented the JGSDF were crowned the winners of the soccer tournament after defeating the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. During the three-on-three basketball tournament, U.S. Army Garrison Japan beat 38th ADA twice to capture the title after both teams were undefeated heading into the finals.
On the third day of events, 10th Support Group/35th CSSB edged out the 311th Military Intelligence Battalion by only 11 seconds to win the team combat focused fitness competition. USAABJ then beat 10th SG/35th CSSB in the finals of the ultimate Frisbee tournament.
About 50 people also participated in a 5k fun run. Daisuke Obura won the adult male category, while John DeRienzo was the top finisher for males aged between 13 to 17 years old. Paul DeRienzo won the 12 and under male category.
Mia Perusich was the top adult female finisher and Avery Perusich was the fastest female aged between 13 to 17 years old. Eleanor DeRienzo won the 12 and under female category.
On Friday, 35th CSSB pulled their way to victory to win the tug-of-war competition, and the NCO team beat the officer team in the softball game.
The ceremony also recognized Staff Sgt. Jamal Walker and Spc. Jacob Byrd, both assigned to the USARJ Band, for winning the USARJ NCO and Soldier of the quarter boards and representing the command in the U.S. Army Pacific Best Warrior Competition.
Vowell and Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Dodson Jr., senior enlisted leader for USARJ, also awarded the Commander’s Cup to USAG Japan for winning the yearlong competition, which included 21 different sports and athletic activities aimed at bolstering overall readiness and morale across the community.
“The actions of all of the participants epitomize the Army’s 247 years of legacy and of service to our nation,” Vowell said. “These warriors show us that it is important to pause and focus on our people and our accomplishments.”