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JASDF taste American life on Kadena

Japan Air Self Defense Force Staff Sgt. Youki Takasaki, from Okinoerabu-Jima Air Station, helps Senior Airman Alysha Landers, 18th Communications Squadron, repair a radio unit July 25. Seven JASDF military members recently took part in an exchange program where each member was paired with a Kadena sponsor, allowing them to spend time together and learn how their respective country’s military does business.
(U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Nestor Cruz)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Japan Air Self Defense Force Staff Sgt. Youki Takasaki, from Okinoerabu-Jima Air Station, helps Senior Airman Alysha Landers, 18th Communications Squadron, repair a radio unit July 25. Seven JASDF military members recently took part in an exchange program where each member was paired with a Kadena sponsor, allowing them to spend time together and learn how their respective country’s military does business. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Nestor Cruz)

Technical Sgt. Lisa Wells (right), 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron material management specialist, uses a bar code scanner to show Japan Air Self Defense Force Staff Sgt. Tsugumasa Yamazaki how items are received and stocked in her squadron July 25. Seven JASDF military members recently took part in an exchange program where each member was paired with a Kadena sponsor, allowing them to spend time together and learn how their respective country's military does business.
(U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Nestor Cruz)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Tech. Sgt. Lisa Wells (right), 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron material management specialist, uses a bar code scanner to show Japan Air Self Defense Force Staff Sgt. Tsugumasa Yamazaki how items are received and stocked in her squadron on July 25. Seven JASDF military members recently took part in an exchange program where each member was paired with a Kadena sponsor, allowing them to spend time together and learn how their respective country's military does business. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Nestor Cruz)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Seven Japan Air Self Defense Force military members recently sampled the American lifestyle on and off duty during a bilateral exchange program here July 20 to 25. 

The exchange program is geared toward interoperability between American and Japanese military forces, said Senior Master Sgt. Kenny Trawick, 18th Wing exchange program coordinator. 

"The bilateral exchange program is a 5th Air Force initiative that started about eight years ago as an enlisted NCO/Airman exchange program between JASDF and the U.S. Air Force," Sergeant Trawick said. 

Each Japanese military member was paired with a Kadena Airman sponsor allowing them to spend time together and learn how their respective country's military does business. 

It was a learning experience for everyone. 

"It was very interesting getting insight into how they do their job," said Senior Airman Brian Baldwin, 18th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics specialist and co-sponsor of a JASDF sergeant, along with Senior Airman Michael Consigny, also from the 18th AMXS. 

"There were minor differences between our daily operations and the Japanese, such as our daily foreign object damage walks and tool checkout procedures," Airman Consigny said. 

The two Airmen partnered with Japanese Tech. Sgt. Rui Onoue from Nyutabaru Air Base in Miyazaki Prefecture. 

"I'm surprised because the Airmen work on the aircraft out on the flightline," Sergeant Onoue said. "At our base, we have people who bring the aircraft to the hangar for maintenance work." 

The language barrier presented a challenge to most of the participants but they discovered various ways to convey messages while practicing each other's language. 

"We used a dictionary, hand signals and sometimes drew pictures to get our meaning across," said Staff Sgt. Jafet Benavides, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron jet engine propulsion specialist. He sponsored Staff Sgt. Youki Fujimoto, a jet engine mechanic from Naha Air Base in Okinawa. 

Kadena Shoguns showed their Japanese guests that Airmen work hard and play hard. While off-duty, newfound friends set forth on various activities ranging from shopping and exercising to sampling American cuisine. 

"Staff Sgt. Mayumi Ishikawa was surprised at the large portions when I took her to Chili's," said Senior Airman Mandelyn Cook, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels specialist. 

"We really had a great time together, going bowling, hanging out at the marina and working out at the gym," said Senior Airman Alysha Landers, 18th Communications Squadron ground radio communications specialist. She sponsored fellow ground radio specialist Staff Sgt. Youki Takasaki, from Okinoerabu-Jima Air Station in Kagoshima Prefecture. Sergeant Takasaki returned the favor by taking Airman Landers to a local festival. 

Some JASDF airmen were surprised by Kadena's size. 

"Kadena is a very large base," said Sergeant Ishikawa, a fuels technician from Tsuiki Air Base in Fukuoka Prefecture. "There are more buildings here and more sections within the squadrons." 

The exchange initiative was a hit for everyone involved said Sergeant Trawick. 

"This was another successful exchange due to the enthusiasm and professionalism of each sponsor," Sergeant Trawick said. "I saw how appreciative the JASDF members were." 

Sergeant Trawick said the Airmen showed great hospitality by opening up not only their work centers but their personal lives as well. 

"I know they will have lasting memories of the time they spent on Kadena and I am sure they will tell all of their friends and co-workers about their stay with us," he said.