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NEWS | March 17, 2015

USAF, U.S. Army Host 15th Annual NCO Exchange for Japan Air Self-Defense Force

By Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris, 18th Wing Public Affairs

 KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- U.S. Air Force and Army service members hosted an NCO exchange here March 3, giving seven Japan Air Self-Defense Force members a chance to work with their U.S. counterparts.

The JASDF Airmen were each paired with Kadena Airmen or Soldiers in their respective jobs for almost two weeks. This allowed the JASDF Airmen to learn firsthand about their job here and practice their English.

"During these exchanges, JASDF members report for duty at Kadena Air Base and spend the day learning and experiencing the personal and professional lifestyles of our U.S. members," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Erick Lizarraga, 18th Wing assistant JASDF bilateral coordinator. "The objective is to give our NCOs an opportunity to create long-lasting relationships with the JASDF members and experience similarities or differences that exist between our host nation self-defense and our military system." 

One pair of Aerospace Ground Equipment NCOs during the exchange found their jobs had more similarities than they would have thought originally.

"Our job is basically the same with a few small differences. We maintain nonpowered and powered AGE, while they only work on powered AGE, but we could both work on a generator together easily," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Blocker, 18th AGE craftsman. "The language barrier was an issue at first, but we quickly worked out key words to talk to each other to accomplish our tasks."

In order to be chosen for this program, JASDF members submitted a package, which was then sent to a review board to ensure requesters met proper rank and job requirements. Finally, the top performers were selected to participate in this exchange.

While the program was mainly about JASDF and U.S. military working together, they also found time during the weekend to connect and get to know each other better at a local indoor sports and gaming complex and by playing volleyball together.

At the end of the exchange, JASDF Tech. Sgt. Daisuke Mitsunaga, Iwo To Air Base Group AGE craftsman said, "I've enjoyed being able to work together with my counterpart and be able to accomplish a similar mission. The exchange has been a good experience."

The NCO exchange program between Kadena Airmen and JASDF started in 2001. Now, after 14 years, it has grown to encompass the Army and may soon add U.S. Navy and Marines to the program.

"NCO exchanges with JASDF members are not new to the wing," Lizarraga said. "We've had exchanges with JASDF for more than a decade now; however, they are beginning to increase in volume and diversification."

Lizarraga went on to say the goal is to host two exchanges annually at Kadena, and  JASDF, in-turn, will host two to three exchanges each year. JASDF recently hosted one exchange at Naha Air Base, Japan, and last year, members were sent once to mainland Japan for NCO exchanges with JASDF, which were great successes.
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