MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers spent three days shadowing units at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Feb. 22 to 24, as part of their final English comprehension exercise prior to graduating a three-month Basic Enlisted English course.
“The Joint Basic Enlisted English Program takes members from various JGSDF bases and helps them further their foundation of the English language,” said Sgt.1st Class Akira Horikoshi, JGSDF BEE course instructor.
Every quarter, Misawa members play a role in the course as native English speakers. For the majority of the JGSDF soldiers, it is the first time interacting with American troops. The JGSDF trainees used the English they learned by asking questions and actively engaging with Airmen and Sailors.
“It is beneficial for JGSDF soldiers because they can improve their communication skills by speaking with native English speakers and learn about U.S. cultures,” Horikoshi said.
In order to foster a deeper understanding of English and American culture, over the course of three days, several events encouraged interoperable mingling with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force.
On the first day, 29 JGSDF soldiers divided into groups by career field paired up with their respective AF unit for the day. The following day, they attended a condensed Airman Leadership School course, an ALS mentoring luncheon, toured the American Forces Network station and learned about the F-16 Fighting Falcon warfighting capabilities from the maintenance group.
The soldiers also spent half a day with the Naval Air Facility-Misawa. They participated in a physical training session with the Navy and experienced naval aviation and facility repair briefings.
“These visits give both the JGSDF and U.S. forces personnel an opportunity to see first-hand how the two services conduct business and use job specific English training,” said U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Brandon McKernon, the Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Detachment avionics and armament division leading chief. “We also had an excellent opportunity to just sit down and talk about day-to-day life so the members could get to know each other.”
Being exposed to other U.S. military services enabled members to see the operational differences for each branch’s perspective, and accomplished the goal of the tour by allowing the JGSDF soldiers to demonstrate to their instructors they are capable of future multilateral missions.
“There are numerous bilateral exercises we do with the U.S. as well as other countries,” Horikoshi said. “Because of that, English translators are commonly requested.”
“Misawa gives a great opportunity to be surrounded by English speakers, consistently, and we are thankful for this partnership,” Horikoshi continued.
From the smiles, laughter and fascination that ornamented the soldiers’ faces as they “oohed and aahed” over what they were learning, many times the students said, in English, "thank you for having us."
"We're humbled and grateful to share this experience with our invaluable host nation partners. This program helps us understand each other as we strengthen integration across the full range of bilateral military operations,” said Col. Scott Jobe, the 35th Fighter Wing commander. “Misawa Air Base looks forward to further opportunities like this one to showcase our goodwill and friendship."