By Senior Airman Nick Emerick, 18th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 07, 2017
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jason Sugimoto, a food services supervisor from the 18th Force Support Squadron, reviews a production log for the upcoming weeks April 4, 2017, at the Johnson Flight Kitchen on Kadena Air Base, Japan. According to Sugimoto, being a part of the language enabled Airman program is a highly personal experience, leading to good relationships with senior-ranking individuals in both the Japanese and U.S. militaries. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nick Emerick/Released)
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody recently retired, handing off the responsibility of CMSAF to Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright on Feb. 17, 2017.
Several distinguished visitors were present for the retirement ceremony, according to a speech given by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.
Goldfein welcomed U.S. military international partners, stating we gain strength from our allies and are proud to have senior enlisted leaders from the great nations of Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom in attendance.
Thanks to the language enabled Airman program, an Airman from Kadena Air Base, Japan, was also in attendance as the translator for a senior enlisted official from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force; Staff Sgt. Jason Sugimoto, a food services supervisor from the 18th Force Support Squadron.
“I learned Japanese growing up in Japan,” said Sugimoto. “We moved to the States when I was 16.”
Sugimoto used his upbringing to take advantage of the Language Enabled Airman Program, part of the cultural language center.
“After you complete courses you get a special experience identifier code attached to your AFSC identifying what language you are proficient in, which for me is Japanese,” said Sugimoto. “Once you get the code, you’re also paid extra, that’s what LEAP is for, to instill Airmen with special skills to be used to benefit the Air Force”.
After graduating high school, Sugimoto travelled around the world for six years before joining the Air Force
“I went to Thailand, Guatemala and Europe learning about the world,” said Sugimoto. “After that, it was time for me to do something with my life instead of just hopping around different places, that’s why I joined the Air Force. “
Sugimoto really wanted to learn and work in the hospitality field, that’s why he became a part of services.
“When I joined, I had already taken a test that said I could speak Japanese,” said Sugimoto. “Six years later, when I was in Korea, they sent me an e-mail, saying that I was qualified for the LEAP program. I had no idea what it was about prior to that. So I read that e-mail and applied and I’ve been a member since 2012.”
Since going TDY for LEAP to Guam in 2014, Sugimoto has been on countless TDY’s in support of the Air Force mission, including his opportunity to attend the retirement of the CMSAF.
“Initially I was contacted by LEAP to support the CMSAF’s retirement, but it ended up being more than just supporting the CMSAF,” said Sugimoto. “I was told I would be supporting the Japanese senior enlisted member because he doesn’t speak English.”
Sugimoto had helped him out in the past and he thinks people like the way he translates because he doesn’t translate word to word, he translates it as a native speaker of the language.
“It turned out that the entire week I was in the Pentagon I was also translating for individuals like the Master Petty Officer of the Navy and the Sgt. Maj. of the Marines, all the highest senior enlisted members of each branch and even for General Goldfein,” said Sugimoto. “It was fun, I had never been in a situation where I was in the room with higher-ranking individuals.”
According to Sugimoto, being a part of LEAP is a highly personal experience, leading to good relationships with senior-ranking individuals in both the Japanese and U.S. militaries.
“It really opened up and changed my perspective about how I view the U.S. military,” said Sugimoto. “I’ve had the opportunity to listen to these higher ranking individuals who are making the real changes at the Air Force level and throughout the United States forces. Knowing about the bigger picture of what the Air Force is about, really motivates me.”