The Warlords, the Chargers, the Dambusters — their overseas fans proudly wear the groups’ logos on ball caps and jackets, and the devotees also collect photos, DVDs and other memorabilia highlighting the groups’ exploits.

The fans aren’t rock band groupies. They’re followers of U.S. Navy aviation, and they were out in full force at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, on Saturday for the installation’s Cherry Blossom Festival.

Even before the gates opened to welcome in the Japanese community, Hitoshi Yazawa was waiting at the entrance for Lt. j.g. Jerry Vuolo from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 14 to pick him up so Yazawa could get an early start.

For 12 years, Yazawa has been in the front row of the squadron’s cheering section at open-base events. Saturday, he helped set up and then stood alongside the pilots while persuading fellow Japanese nationals to purchase HS-14 Chargers merchandise.

The profits go to support the unit’s recreational functions.

"All the sales that we do today are due to these guys," Vuolo said of Yazawa and the other fans. "We’ve been alternating pilots out every few hours, but these guys have been here the whole time."

Yazawa occasionally visits and eats dinner with squadron members and never misses a chance to spread his enthusiasm. "I’m interested in helos and squadron aviators, and I think HS-14 is made of great persons," said Yazawa, who goes by "A-Chan" when around his HS-14 friends.

Takafumi Hiroe also was at Atsugi to support the Chargers.

According to Vuolo, Hiroe has been known to bring them fresh apples from Northern Japan and never misses a chance for a photo op when one of squadron’s SH-60 Seahawk helicopters receives a new paint job.

Plenty of other Japanese fans swarmed the Atsugi flight line Saturday to admire the displays of freshly painted helicopters and combat jets. Their ball caps and flight jackets adorned with patches made it easy to identify their allegiances.

Then there was Ryuta Amamiya, who has found the need to switch from time to time, when favorites relocate to the States. These days he finds himself on the side of the Royal Maces of Strike Fighter Squadron 27.

Strike Fighter Squadron 102 Diamondbacks fan Yukihisa Jinno disagrees with his friend Amamiya, but said he welcomes the light competition over loyalties.

"Of course, I think 102 is the best squadron, but I also respect VFA-27," Jinno said, laughing.

Lt. Collier Crouch of the Strike Fighter Squadron 195 Dambusters spent much of the day posing with fans, both new and old, in front of one of the squadron’s F/A-18C Hornet.

"I think some people think it’s kind of weird — that it’s like having groupies — but, honestly, we get to know the guys really well, and they really help us to communicate with the rest of people at events like this," Crouch said. "It’s just nice to know that you’re appreciated."

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