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NEWS | Dec. 2, 2015

Where Friendship Takes Flight

By Sgt. John Carkeet IV Army Reserve Engagement Team - Japan

CAMP ZAMA, Japan - Soldiers from the Army Reserve Engagement Team-Japan coordinated with the U.S. Army Japan's (USARJ) Aviation Battalion to transport their Japan Ground Self-Defense Force partners via a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Camp Takeyama, one of the country's largest joint training bases, to USARJ Headquarters in Camp Zama, Japan, Nov. 19, 2015.

Japanese citizens seeking enlistment into the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Reserve (JGSDF) component undergo a rigorous five-day training program that molds raw recruits into a dynamic self-defense force. 

When the commander of the JGSDF's 117th Training Battalion, JGSDF Lt. Col. Kenichi Hirohata, invited nine of his reserve candidates to dedicate one of those days to a bilateral air mission with their U.S. Army Reserve counterparts in Camp Zama, Japan, the group literally took flight. 

"The 117th Training Battalion] is honored to train together with our American allies," said Hirohata. "This was a fantastic opportunity for our candidates to learn how [the U.S. Army] operates and apply those lessons to their individual training."

Air ARET-J

Soldiers from the Army Reserve Engagement Team-Japan coordinated with the U.S. Army Japan's (USARJ) Aviation Battalion to transport their JGSDF partners via a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Camp Takeyama, one of the country's largest joint training bases, to USARJ Headquarters in Camp Zama, Japan, Nov. 19, 2015.

"The air mission came about due to the long distance between Camp Takeyama and Camp Zama," said Army Col. Timothy M. Snyder, deputy chief of staff, ARET-J. "Using USARJ's air assets allowed us to maximize the candidates' actual training time."

"In previous bilateral missions, we could only host two or three events before our JGSDF partners embarked on a three-hour drive back to [Camp] Takeyama," added Army Sgt. 1st Class Martin V. Arcilla, operations noncommissioned officer, ARET-J. "Thanks to this air mission, we more than doubled that number."

Breaking the language barrier

Snyder and his team gave their guests an overview of the U.S. Army Reserve's structure, missions and capabilities. His team also facilitated a briefing that gave a glimpse of what it takes to serve as a language interpreter. 

"Most of the candidates who joined us today speak several languages fluently, and all of them have expressed interest in joining JGSDF's highly coveted language interpreter corps," said Snyder. "Integrating our guests with native English speakers while simultaneously immersing them in a military atmosphere thick with acronyms and technical terms challenges them to re-evaluate and refine their high level of fluency." 

A link to the past

ARET-J also guided their guests into Camp Zama's proud past with a waking tour of the base's museum, monuments and the Japanese emperor's air raid shelter dating back to the Second World War.

"Camp Zama was once home to one of Japan's prestigious military academies," said Arcilla. "Today it serves as the headquarters for USARJ and several JGSDF units. Both sides pay their respects to Camp Zama's proud past by maintaining the many landmarks that make this post so unique."

"I was shown so many things about our history that I did not learn in school," said JGSDF Reserve candidate Atsushi Iwata as he touched a steel hatch originally designed to protect Japan's emperor from bombs and shrapnel. "I'm pleased that our two countries work together to preserve these historic sites." 

Back to the present

ARET-J then pulled the group back to the present with a visit to USARJ's motor pool.

"I had never seen Humvees and [tactical] trucks before," said Iwata. "I underestimated their size and power ... The heavy doors and large engines indicate that the U.S. [Army] has gone to great lengths to protect and supply its Soldiers." 

"Long after we left the motor pool, the candidates excitedly spoke to one another about what they saw there," said Arcilla. "Just comes to show you that military hardware doesn't need to be bristling with guns to gain respect." 

The art of marksmanship

The candidates concluded their tour with a five-minute flight to Sagami General Depot. For the first time in their budding military careers, these young men and women received an introductory lesson in the the art of marksmanship.

"Most of these candidates had never held a weapon, even authentic props like the ones used at Sagami Depot's Training Support Center [TSC]," said Snyder. "Their hands-on training with realistic video simulations produced by the TSC's Engagement Skills Trainer [EST] gave them a memorable introduction on how to properly use a weapon in a safe and fun environment."

"I learned that marksmanship is more than just pointing the weapon at the target and squeezing the trigger," said Iwata. "Posture, aiming and breathing played pivotal roles in whether or not I hit the target on the [projector] screen. I look forward to using what I learned today when I fire a real rifle-a Japanese Howa Type 89-with live ammunition for the first time at Camp Takeyama." 

A committed partnership

After a full day of briefings, tours and training, the candidates flew back to Camp Takeyama with a greater level of respect and admiration for their American allies. 

"[ARET-J] wanted to design a bilateral engagement that demonstrated the Army Reserve's commitment to the alliance," said Snyder. "The air mission reinforced that commitment by showing our sincere interest in our partners' training."

The high praise the candidates gave during their after action report regarding their American partners for their friendship and professionalism persuaded Hirohata and his command to invite ARET-J to Camp Takeyama. The visit gave Snyder and his team a first hand account of how the JGSDF uses every waking minute in its precious five-day training schedule to transform patriotic civilians into warrior citizens. 

"We wanted to honor our American partners with the highest level of respect that they gave to my candidates," said Hirohata. "Giving our guests a VIP tour of Camp Takeyama's training facilities while personally seeing how [the JGSDF] trains our candidates is one of the best ways to strengthen our alliance."

The tour also included a brief but productive meeting with JGSDF Maj. Gen. Hajime Kowase, garrison commander of Camp Takeyama. Kowase, Hirohata and Snyder discussed future bilateral engagements that would immerse select JGSDF Reserve Component candidates to the U.S. Army's culture and capabilities through base tours, training events and battle assembly operations. Popular proposals included expanding bilateral engagements to JGSDF candidates pursuing careers in the medical field, enrolling JGSDF service members in USARJ's civil affairs training courses, and inviting JGSDF Reserve Component service members to participate in a U.S. Army Reserve weekend drill. 

"The more we engage with our JGSDF partners, the more both sides receive from this remarkable relationship," said Snyder.
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