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Different place, same mission

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Over 20 students from the Australian Defense Force Centre for Strategic and Defense Studies, representing six countries, visited Kadena Air Base, Japan, May 16, 2018.

Senior military and civilian officials from Australia and its U.N. allies arrived as part of a hands-on capstone tour looking at the strategic aspects of Northeast Asia. The students are enrolled in the Defense and Strategic Studies Course, a year-long post-graduate level educational program, focusing on knowledge, awareness and skills to operate at the highest levels of leadership, command, policy formulation and management.

Using an advanced learning environment, throughout the course the students are expected to contribute their experience and knowledge to enrich the group. The students utilize the unique opportunity to interact and discuss complex issues with a diverse presence of nationalities and backgrounds.

“From my perspective it is trying to build some really strong friendships and deepen the relationships across the nations that we have,” said Australian Air Force Group Captain Stuart Bellingham, DSSC student. “We can hopefully take that forward and use those relationships to underpin the links between our nations, which is the most important part of any alliance or partnership.”

The class visited numerous locations throughout China, Japan, Guam and Korea, meeting with military and civilian officials from each country. The students used the opportunity to talk with consulate generals, foreign-affairs personnel and business people about key issues affecting each location.

“This trip is all about looking at the strategic aspects of Northeast Asia,” Bellingham said. “It has brought out the key issues we’ve been reading about and talking about.”

While at Kadena Air Base, the students met with leadership from the 18th Wing and the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force for command briefs and open discussions about Okinawa’s role in the Pacific. The group also met with U.S. Consulate General to understand the political perspective of Okinawa before departing for the next stop of their trip.

“We’re engaging at the geo-political level, to appreciate the strategic significance of Okinawa for the people of Japan, as well as the nations represented here,” said Australian Army Col. Ana Duncan, DSSC student, “In terms of what we see as a will to ensure regional stability and security moving forward.”