U.S. Marines with Marine Attack Squadron 542, also known as the Tigers, arrived at Chitose Air Base, Japan, Dec. 2, 2016, to partake in the Aviation Training Relocation Program.
The ATR is a bilateral program with an effort to increase operational readiness and improve interoperability between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Japan Air Self Defense Force, and reduce noise concerns of aviation training on local communities by disseminating training locations throughout Japan.
“This ATR is a great way to learn and teach training points and utilize what works best for both the U.S. and Japan,” said U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Joshua O’Connor, maintenance staff and division chief for VMA-542. “Throughout the training we are looking at how we can better ourselves and maintain good relations with our allies.”
The ATR emerged from the May 2006 U.S-Japan Roadmap for Realignment Implementation, to support Pacific theater security cooperation. The U.S and Japan governments share a mutual understanding of importance for the ATR program and continue to fund it through a cost share agreement.
“Working with our Japanese counterparts is always an opportunity for great things”, said U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Eli Gilbert, ordnance technician with VMA-542. “Getting to work with them builds cohesion between us and makes future interactions seamless. This is the kind of training that shows how well we can work together and the things we can continue to do as allies.”
Over the course of the next two weeks the Tigers, home based out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, currently forward deployed to MCAS Iwakuni, will test their ability to work in new conditions with new aircraft alongside their Japanese counterparts.
“I don’t expect us to perform any differently,” said O’Connor. “I expect my Marines to push themselves as if we were stateside or on a deployment. I also expect them to experience everything Chitose has to offer and be the ambassadors of the U.S. that we are.”