US, JASDF Airmen increase bilateral capabilities at ATR
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- As pilots from Misawa Air Base's 14th Fighter Squadron took to the skies to fly Aviation Training Relocation missions out of Komatsu Air Base, Japan, an NCO was on the ground, tracking pertinent flight information in support of air operations.
As a Maintenance Operations Center Controller assigned to the 35th Maintenance Group, Staff Sgt. Jacob Larman dispatches resources for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, and tracks maintenance actions, sorties and incidents such as in-flight emergencies and injured personnel.
"We keep the commanders informed of flying statuses and incidents, and coordinate with weather to ensure the flightline personnel are in a safe environment," Larman said. "There is a lot we do that people don't know about."
At Misawa, Larman can directly reach out to the petroleum, oil and lubricants flight for a quick refuel or the weather flight for an up-to-date forecast. But since Komatsu is a Japanese Air Self Defense Force base, he has to contact his Japanese MOC counterparts for these services.
"We don't have the same resources readily available to us at Komatsu, but we make it work," Larman said. "We 'make do' through our host, the JASDF, and get help from those back at Misawa."
The NCO was not collocated with the JASDF MOC during the ATR, and had to ask for assistance over the phone.
"Working with the JASDF is challenging - there is a language barrier even though they spoke some English," he said. "We were taught a few phrases to ease the process. It is definitely a learning experience trying to coordinate with them, and it takes a lot of patience on both parts."
Larman did have the opportunity to briefly meet with members of the JASDF MOC, and was excited to see the similarities and differences between the two centers.
"It was pretty interesting seeing how the JASDF MOC worked in an environment different than ours - they were in a more centralized location with other agencies," Larman said. "It was easier to communicate with added hand gestures. They were friendly and courteous when we met, and I think they were just as interested in us as we were them."
Warrant Officer Tadahiro Hashinoki has been a controller at the JASDF MOC for the last 35 years, has worked four ATRs with American Forces, and was on the receiving end of a few of the calls from Larman while at Komatsu. Though Larman and Hashinoki didn't work side-by-side, the warrant officer was able to witness how Airmen from the 35th Fighter Wing operate firsthand.
After one of Misawa's F-16 Fighting Falcons experienced an in-flight emergency and made an emergency landing due to hydraulic issues, Hashinoki helped remove the aircraft from the runway.
"I was really impressed with how well the Misawa Airmen handled the emergency," Hashinoki said. "The Airmen worked very quickly, safely and efficiently, and didn't interrupt the commercial aircraft that share the runway with Komatsu Air Base. Overall, it was a great opportunity to work with the American Airmen and see how they operate."