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NEWS | Jan. 17, 2024

US, international airborne forces soar in annual New Year's Jump

By Airman 1st Class Natalie Doan, 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron displayed their tactical airlift capabilities during the annual New Year's Jump on Jan. 7, in the airspace above Camp Narashino, Japan, as part of a public exhibition hosted by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force 1st Airborne Brigade.

A tradition dating back to the 1960s, this event aims to bring good luck to JGSDF paratroopers in the new year and strengthen the bonds between allied nations as they renew the shared goal of safeguarding peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

This year, the 36th AS flew three C-130J Super Hercules aircraft and dropped 30 JGSDF paratroopers, despite challenging weather conditions.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Chase Hessman, 36th AS assistant director of operations, served as the mission commander for the New Year's Jump and recognized the strong bond between the 1st AB and 36th AS.

“This event is a joint endeavor where airborne units from different nations come together,” said Hessman. “The New Year’s Jump is a powerful symbol of unity, showcasing our ability to operate seamlessly with our international counterparts.”

On the ground at Camp Narashino, leaders from the 374th Airlift Wing observed the 36th AS with 9,000 Japanese visitors, including Japan Minister of Defense, Minoru Kihara. Distinguished visitors from nine different countries were also in attendance, representing Japan, the U.S., Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and Cambodia.

International airborne representatives then exchanged gifts with JGSDF Maj. Gen. Junya Wakamatsu, 1st AB commander, including U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kira Coffey, 36th AS commander, who presented Wakamatsu with a replica of a C-130J propeller blade, emblazoned with words of gratitude.

“New Year’s Jump marks the beginning of an annual cycle of bilateral cooperation between the 36th Airlift Squadron and 1st Airborne Brigade,” said Coffey. “Our strong collaboration reinforces the importance of airborne operations in deterring adversaries and ensures that we are ready to collectively address challenges and contribute to regional security.”

The New Year’s Jump event occurred just days after the Jan. 5 International Airborne Commanders Conference, which brought together airborne forces and support entities from nine total countries as part of a continuing effort to develop large-scale joint force operations.

During the event, senior leaders emphasized the importance of demonstrating military presence in the Indo-Pacific region in support of enduring peace and stability.

“The role of the Air Force is obviously critical to airborne operations,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Andrew Roddan, 374th Airlift Wing commander. “We must deliver the airborne force and sustain the airborne force. Then, we must expand the force as they establish control of the terrain and execute their ground operation. It is key that combined air and ground forces integrate seamlessly as one well-trained team.”