Support our mission

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Airmen Leadership School students here had an interpreter on hand Friday just in case.

The 13 students, Japanese infantrymen from Hokkaido, were English novices.

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force troops, part of the Northern Army Training Regiment at Camp Hagashi-Chitose, got a taste of what the U.S. Air Force teaches its up-and-coming noncommissioned officers.

JGSDF troops from Chitose and Camp Sendai visit Misawa about four times a year to practice English, typically stopping by Airmen Leadership School for a tour. But on the last jaunt, the school’s five-week curriculum caught the eye of a Chitose JGSDF training officer, said Master Sgt. David Duncan, ALS flight chief.

He asked if the ALS staff could compress into a day lessons on time and stress management, group dynamics, diversity, leadership/followership and team development for the force’s beginning English students, mostly sergeants and sergeants first class.

With Senior Airman Jun Oikawa of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s 3rd Wing standing in as translator, the JGSDF members went to school Friday.

All instruction was in English, with Oikawa only occasionally having to clarify a word or concept or slow conversation down.

The troops understood enough to quiz Duncan during his diversity presentation.

He had to think about one question: “How do you teach your children to accept diversity?”

“I just said you have to be open and allow them to ask questions about differences they see in other people,” he said.

The class discussed visible and not-so-obvious differences among individuals and how to honor and use those to the advantage of the fighting force, Duncan added.

Sgt. Yoichi Andon, 21, a JGSDF infantryman, said he liked the diversity lesson best: “America is very different people, many different places,” he said.

Since 1995 about 30 JASDF airmen have graduated from the full five-week program, Duncan said. The school is required to train U.S. airmen being promoted to staff sergeant but usually a few slots open every session. Duncan said U.S. military leaders in the Pacific, including U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Forces Japan and the 35th Fighter Wing, are interested in expanding such bilateral exchanges.

The Air Force is moving toward service-to-service and combined professional military education involving personnel from different countries, Duncan said.

With all the multinational forces in Iraq, he said, “it’s important that we learn to work together and … find that common ground.”

twitter Email

stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up