Japan flies 300th mission for Operation Freedom Lift
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The Japan Air Self-Defense Force on Thursday wrapped up its 300th mission in support of Operation Freedom Lift, an effort to haul needed supplies to U.S. personnel stationed in Japan and Guam.
A Japanese C-1 aircraft and crew from Iruma Air Base in nearby Saitama prefecture landed at Yokota, picked up cargo and took off as part of a small ceremony staged by the 5th Air Force to mark the milestone.
Brig. Gen. Joseph M. Reheiser, the 5th Air Force vice commander said JASDF C-130 and C-1 missions have freed up U.S. aircraft for duty in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
“We are grateful to the government of Japan for their participation,” he said. “It’s enabled the U.S. Air Force to use its planes to complete our mission in Afghanistan. Today is their 300th mission and I’m sure there will be many more.”
The Associated Press reported this week that Japan plans to withdraw its 600 troops from southern Iraq within the next several months.
If such a move transpires, it shouldn’t affect the JASDF role in Operation Freedom Lift, Reheiser said Thursday. The airlifts are permitted under Japan’s Anti-terrorism Special Measures Law.
“We have no indications at all that this is going to cease or be discontinued,” he said.
JASDF Col. Kenji Ono, commander of Iruma’s 2nd Tactical Airlift Group, also doesn’t anticipate any changes. “I am very confident we’re going to continue this mission in the future with no problems,” he said through a translator.
The JASDF began taking part in OFL in November 2001, airlifting supplies and personnel for coalition forces in the war on terrorism. Previous flights traveled to Guam but the current route — completed once a week — originates from Iruma and hits Kadena Air Base, Okinawa; Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and Yokota.
Reheiser, a C-130 pilot here in the early 1980s, said the Iruma and Yokota bases did virtually nothing together when he first left Japan.
“The ground crews now have a chance to work together and get to know each other. That didn’t happen 23 years ago,” he said. “It sounds like a small thing, but in the military, trust and confidence are huge. It’s very important. That comes about only by working together.”