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Japanese, American NCOs work together to gain insight

by Airman 1st Class Tara A. Williamson
18th Wing Public Affairs

2/25/2011 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- Kadena Air Base officials began a NCO exchange program Feb. 18, giving eight Japanese Air Self Defense Force airmen the chance to see how their U.S. Air Force counterparts operate.

"The JASDF airmen did an ice-breaker with the chiefs, flew the KC-135 (Stratotanker) flight simulator and worked with their USAF counterparts," said Senior Master Sgt. Dennis O'Grady, the 18th Wing bilateral coordinator.

While many things went smoothly with the program, there were bumps along the way.

"The language barrier was probably the hardest thing to get over," said Staff Sgt. Peter Burger, a radio frequency transmissions craftsman. "I think once we found a common way to communicate, then it seemed to go much smoother."

The eight JASDF airmen were each paired with a Kadena AB Airman in their respective jobs. This allowed the JASDF airmen to learn firsthand about their job here and practice their English.

Sergeant Burger helped his teammate, Staff Sgt. Hirokatsu Kakimoto, a JASDF radio maintainer, in translating his experience to English.

"I've learned more about Kadena's U.S. military," Sergeant Kakimoto said. "It has been interesting and exciting."

It wasn't all work for the JASDF and USAF airmen. The teams went to an indoor sports and gaming complex during the weekend to connect and get to know each other better.

"Work was fun, but play has also been fun," said Tech. Sgt. Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, another exchange participant. "This was my first time participating in this program. It has helped me understand the differences between the U.S. and JASDF operations."

Being given the chance to bring back useful information and possible changes to their bases is something new to the JASDF airmen. In the same aspect, the Kadena AB Airmen have gained knowledge on how the Japanese forces run their operations.

"The entire team gains valuable insight on each other's military and culture," Sergeant O'Grady said. "They also learn that even though there are differences in how we perform certain tasks we all have the same goal."

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