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Airmen train Japanese customs agency members to detect threats

by Senior Airman Jessica Lockoski
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/26/2010 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- Air Force Office of Special Investigations agents from Det. 623 here and Airmen from the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Unit here trained Hakodate customs inspectors with the Japan Ministry of Finance April 23 on counterterrorism measures to deter potential threats that may pass through Northern Japan's ports and terminals.

The inspectors' role is to keep firearms, illegal drugs and materials used for acts of terrorism at bay to maintain the safety and security of Japan's citizens, said Shigeki Igarashi, the Hakodate customs senior investigator of the customs management section and intelligence division.

The training is now an annual event that began in 2008 to help customs inspectors with their mission.

The customs officials requested the training to identifying explosive items and weapon parts to conduct inspections on parcels and mail coming through the Japanese transit systems, said Special Agent Daniel Johnson, from OSI Det. 623.

"The inspectors always look forward to attending the training," he said. "It sharpens their skills with Airmen who have regular hands-on experience with weapons and explosives."

The OSI portion of training provided about 20 customs inspectors with practical weapons identification skills that focused on firearms such as rifles, pistols and shotguns.

Inspectors disassembled the weapons, allowing them to see the bits and pieces, so they know what to look for when searching parcels or X-ray machine scans, Agent Johnson said.

Explosive ordnance technicians also took the stage and taught inspectors how to recognize explosive devices.

"If inspectors are searching packages or crates, they need to know what they are looking at if something looks suspicious," said Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Hansen, a 35th CES EOD technician. "We showed them several types of inactive explosives and how to detect commonly used material or indicators that might be used in an (improvised explosive device)."

In Japan, strict weapon control laws make hands-on training such as this is rare because access to weapons and volatile materials is not common, even for some law enforcement officials, Agent Johnson said.

"By handling realistic examples of IEDs and learning the concept of use, the training allowed us to recognize them by sight and identify high-risk targets," Mr. Igarashi said. "It will help us with our inspections of passengers, ships and cargo."

As a testament of their appreciation, Hakodate customs officials personally recognized the two agencies April 23, during a visit to Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Mr. Igarashi said he would like to continue to send as many inspectors through the Airmen's training program in the future.

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