USFJ commander visits Komatsu Air Base
KOMATSU AIR BASE, Japan -- U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John L. Dolan, commander of U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force, headquartered at Yokota Air Base, visited Komatsu Air Base, Japan, during the Komatsu Aviation Training Relocation exercise March 9, 2016.
Since taking his post as commander of USFJ, Dolan has worked to improve the bilateral security alliance through the Aviation Training Relocation program. The ATR program has three main goals: to increase operational readiness, improve interoperability, and reduce local noise impacts. These goals are achieved by dispersing unilateral jet fighter training of U.S. forces based in Misawa Air Base, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, and Kadena Air Base to six Japan Air Self-Defense Force bases on mainland Japan.
"The purpose of the ATR program is to provide some relief to our Japanese neighbors from the noise generated by our aircraft operations at bases throughout the mainland and Okinawa,” said Dolan. “A secondary benefit is the opportunity for our aircrews to train with their Japanese counterparts, which enhances readiness and interoperability."
The majority of these ATR events relocated from Okinawa, mitigating noise impacts on the local community while still meeting required training objectives and upholding alliance obligations.
Maj. Gen. Kenichiro Nagumo, 6th Air Wing commanding general, and the JASDF Honor Guard greeted Dolan on the Komatsu flightline upon arrival. Dolan toured the base, conversed with members of visiting units Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12 from MCAS Iwakuni, and discussed the ATR plans with U.S. and Japanese pilots.
“It’s a huge statement for a three star general to visit Komatsu Air Base,” said Lt. Col. Gregory A. McGuire, commanding officer of VMFA-314. “Lt. Gen. Dolan and his staff work hard to bring our two services [U.S. and Japanese] together. I think this visit solidified for him the reality of how useful and important the ATR program really is for both the U.S. and Japan defense.”
Bilateral engagements like the Komatsu ATR enable the U.S and Japanese forces to further understand each other’s capabilities and tactics. The program offers exceptional opportunities for Marine Corps aviation and the JASDF to mature their interoperability, while solidifying the stability and strength of an already incredible alliance with the host nation.
“Just look at us here in the planning room,” said McGuire. “We have Japanese and American pilots sitting around the same table talking over the next day’s events. You can’t find that anywhere else. I believe having the commander and Japanese leadership observe this level of bonding today will pave the way for a greater magnitude of bilateral training in the future.”
Dolan emphasized the importance of bilateral training for both American and Japanese forces during a gift exchange with Nagumo. This international relationship is essential to security in the Pacific region.
"We are extremely grateful to the people of Japan for their vital contributions to the alliance, which is the cornerstone of peace and stability in Asia,” said Dolan. “We are committed to maintaining good relations with our local communities on the mainland and in Okinawa and we continue to be cognizant of the impact of the U.S. military presence in Japan."