Marine Corps Capt. Eric Pak, left, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Master Sgt. Tomoya Tasaki call for air support during training at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Dec. 15, 2023.

Marine Corps Capt. Eric Pak, left, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Master Sgt. Tomoya Tasaki call for air support during training at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Dec. 15, 2023. (Kira Ducato/U.S. Marine Corps)

A master sergeant in the Japanese army learned English to become the first Japanese instructor taught by U.S. Marines to direct close air support for infantry from both countries.

Master Sgt. Tomoya Tasaki of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force was designated an instructor for joint terminal attack controllers, or JTAC, on Feb. 20, according to a Marine Corps press release March 6. He trained with the 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company at Camp Hansen, Okinawa.

Marine Capt. Eric Pak, a weapons tactics instructor and JTAC evaluator who helped train Tasaki, described him as extremely dedicated.

“Master Sgt. Tasaki wanted to be a JTAC, but then realized that he had to learn to speak English,” Pak told Stars and Stripes by phone March 8. “So, he learned how to speak English and he became proficient” while learning the job.

As a certified instructor, Tasaki will train Japanese troops using the skills he gained with the Marines, a Ground-Self-Defense Force spokesman told Stars and Stripes by phone March 28. Some government spokespeople in Japan are required to speak to the media only on condition of anonymity.

The Ground Self-Defense Force did not make Tasaki available to Stars and Stripes for an interview by the requested time.

“I want to contribute to joint fires operations and support future Japanese JTACs,” Tasaki, a fire support coordination chief with Japan’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, said in the Marines’ news release.

The first step to becoming a JTAC instructor is a five-week course to become a certified tactical air controller, the person responsible for calling in air strikes and other lethal fire support, Pak said.

Tasaki completed that course in June at the Marines’ expeditionary warfare training center in San Diego, Calif., according to the release.

“Once he successfully completed that part, we began to work on his instructor stuff because he is the only qualified JTAC in the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force,” Pak said. “But then in order for them to create more JTACs they needed an instructor, so he took on that responsibility to progress and be able to teach.”

JTAC instructors take newly minted controllers and train them to standards that unit commanders depend upon for safe and effective delivery of firepower, Pak said.

The Ground Self-Defense Force will train its personnel to deliver close air support according to tactics shared by U.S. and Japanese forces, the Self-Defense Force spokesman said.

“Now he is qualified to work with NATO aircraft and joint force aircraft,” Pak said. “So, he doesn’t have to just control Japanese organic aircraft. Since graduating that course, he has been working close air support with U.S. rotary wing and fixed wing platforms.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.

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Jonathan Snyder is a reporter at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. Most of his career was spent as an aerial combat photojournalist with the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He is also a Syracuse Military Photojournalism Program and Eddie Adams Workshop alumnus.

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