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18th Wing key component in war on terrorism

by Staff Sgt. Kenya Shiloh
18th Wing Public Affairs

11/23/2006 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan (AFPN) -- The importance of the 18th Wing's mission in fighting the war on terrorism and its peacekeeping efforts in the Pacific region were the key topics discussed by the U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force commander here Nov. 15.

Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright visited the base for an orientation tour of the wing and its capabilities.

"Our Air Force bases in Japan under 5th Air Force include three wings, the 374th Airlift wing at Yokota, the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa and the 18th Wing here at Kadena. All contribute in a major and unique way to the mission of the United States Air Force," General Wright said.

"We constantly deploy our Airmen and our aircraft to Southwest Asia in support of the global war on terrorism. Here in Japan, our units provide forward-deployed combat power in support of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security signed by our two governments in 1960," he said.

The general said the treaty has been the basis of the strong security alliance between the United States and Japan, an alliance which has strengthened and become even more relevant over time.

"Our strong friendship helps assure peace and stability in this region and around the world, and the tremendous combat capability of the 18th Wing continues to ensure the United States of America upholds its responsibilities to the treaty and the people of Japan," he said.

He reiterated the direction of recent U.S. government and Japanese government agreements between the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and their Japanese counterparts reaffirming the importance of the United States-Japan alliance and the strengthening of that alliance by addressing the roles, missions, and capabilities of U.S. Forces in Japan and Japan Self-Defense Forces.

These "2+2" agreements include the requirement for enhanced planning as well as improved interoperability. The general said USFJ and 5th Air Force are going through a realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan to help ensure enduring support for United States-Japan Alliance responsibilities.

"Fifth Air Force Airmen have made tremendous contributions to the United States-Japan security alliance over the years and will continue to strengthen the U.S. Air Force operational presence in Japan in the future," said the general.

With the recent launch of seven missiles by North Korea, the general believes missile defense is extremely important to U.S. Forces Japan.

"The missiles North Korean leader Kim Jong Il launched this summer have the capability of reaching Japan and in one case the United States. North Korea now possesses the ability to attack and damage facilities and people on installations in Japan and we're continuing to build both U.S. and Japanese military capability to counter the North Korean ballistic missile threat," the general said.

Since taking over as commander of U.S. Forces Japan nearly two years ago, General Wright has focused on important issues such as improving joint Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and bilateral USFJ self defense forces combat capability, taking care of U.S. Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and their families and improving the friendships between people in U.S. military installations and surrounding Japanese communities.

"We've done a lot with our exercise programs to improve joint and bilateral interoperability, specifically in the area of missile defense," he said. "We've deployed a new radar system to northern Japan, we brought Patriots to Kadena and we built a new bilateral joint operations and coordination center at Yokota to ensure the timely exchange of information so we can deter the threat of ballistic missiles in the region. Our U.S Navy has also recently deployed ships with ballistic missile defense capability in addition to other defense programs."

The general also said it's important that we continue to improve our relationship both personally and professionally with our Japanese neighbors.

"We continue to work closely with the government of Japan to provide, to date, some $4.4 billion in support toward facilities to ensure high quality of life and a ready combat force for the defense of Japan," General Wright said.

"Improving our relationship with our neighbors is a matter of mutual respect and appreciation. This is a wonderful place to live and it's important that we give back to our Okinawan neighbors for what they offer us -- the opportunity to live in their country," he said. "A program like the Special Olympics is an example of reaching out to our Okinawan neighbors. Other initiatives such as the English education programs are productive and important, too.

"The chance that we as Americans have to learn about the unique and rich culture of Okinawa and the Ryukyus offers wonderful personal interaction and individual growth. It makes us better human beings to learn about the unique and positive aspects of another culture, this culture.

"A few other initiatives that I've personally taken on are to ensure that our medical facilities improve customer service, and our chaplain programs are there for our Airmen and their families choosing to gain spiritual education and spiritual strengthening," the general said.

"Another area is promoting professionalism among our force. Promoting professionalism is the foundation for taking care of people. By far the majority of our force and their families adhere to very high standards in their lives," he said. "At the same time, professionalism means we will not tolerate the very few people who choose not to abide by those standards. This is an exceptional force with strong core values, focused on doing the very best job they know how and taking care of each other."

The general said the Air Force is a great place to raise a family. After almost 34 years in uniform, he feels his entire family benefited from being a part of the Air Force family.

"We've been proud to serve a higher cause with outstanding professionals, and it's made us better people."

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