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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Airmen from Kadena Air Base said Tuesday that a weeklong bilateral training in snowy Hokkaido last week helped strengthen communication and tactical coordination with Japan Air Self-Defense Forces.

"They fight a little differently than us, so it allowed us to know who they are and how they operate," said Air Force pilot Capt. Shaylor Billings of the 44th Fighter Squadron.

Billings said pilots from the 44th and JASDF’s 201st and 203rd Tactical Fighter squadrons practiced simulated combat operations with U.S. and Japanese aircraft taking turns posing as enemies.

The three squadrons have previously trained together, but this was the first time the Aviation Training Relocation was held at Chitose Air Base, said 18th Wing spokeswoman Beth Gosselin.

About 70 Kadena airmen — including 11 fighter pilots and 30 members of the 44th Aircraft Maintenance Unit — participated in the exercise.

The snowy weather meant tougher working conditions for the maintenance crew, said Air Force Master Sgt. Ron Locklear, section chief of the maintenance unit. Maintenance crews arrived three hours before flights to prep the F-15s and maintain clear runways, he said.

"It was different for us. We were operating at a slower pace, but it didn’t affect our job," said Locklear, adding that such exercises help build relationships with JASDF and the local community.

The Kadena airmen received a warm reception from local officials and community members who hosted several dinners in their honor, he said.

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