MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, 3rd Wing, 3rd Squadron pilots visited the station Feb. 18 as part of a Japanese Officer Exchange Program hosted by Marine Aircraft Group 12.
The exchange program aims at bettering the working relationship and understanding between the Japanese and American pilots.
Capt. Zach Sarver, current MAG-12 operations officer, said with all the changes that are scheduled to happen to the air station within the next five years, programs like the JOEP are extremely important to aid any deconfliction that could arise between American and Japanese forces along the way.
During their visit, the JASDF pilots learned some of MAG-12’s history and were familiarized with the group’s command structure, mission and area of operations. They were also given a tour of the air traffic control tower and spent time flying the station’s F/A-18 flight simulator. The visiting pilots also spent time with MAG-12 aviators discussing flight tactics, weapons capabilities and other mission oriented topics.
“(The JOEP) gives the visiting pilots a sense of why we are here and an understanding of some of our capabilities and what we provide them with,” said Sarver. All this sharing of information and knowledge helps strengthen our relation with our host country, he added.
Although individual station pilots do not go to Japanese squadrons for a similar exchange, Iwakuni squadrons participate in annual aviation training relocation exercises where they work closely with their Japanese counterparts. The capabilities of both Japanese and American forces are bettered through these exchanges for the benefit of both sides.
“This is really great for our relationship,” said Capt. Hiroyuki Okubo, a JASDF 3rd Wing, 3rd Squadron pilot. “If a conflict ever reaches Japan, we must have a good relationship to operate together in response to that conflict.”
Okubo said he is grateful for the opportunity he was given to become more familiar with his American counterparts.
The JASDF 3rd Wing, 3rd Squadron is based out of Misawa, Japan. Japanese pilots from as far as Okinawa visit two to three times a year to participate in the JOEP.