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Senior Airman Matthew Horn, a 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, assists Capt. Brian Sullivan, a 13th Fighter Squadron pilot, before launching their F-16 prior to a combat training sortie on Wednesday in the skies over Komatsu Air Base, Japan.
Senior Airman Matthew Horn, a 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, assists Capt. Brian Sullivan, a 13th Fighter Squadron pilot, before launching their F-16 prior to a combat training sortie on Wednesday in the skies over Komatsu Air Base, Japan. (Kelly White/Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)

More than 80 airmen from Misawa Air Base got a rare peek at life on a Japan Air Self-Defense Force base this week. American F-16 pilots also went up against their Japanese F-15 counterparts from the 6th Air Wing in air combat training.

It was all part of an Aviation Training Relocation event, which began Monday and was slated to end Friday at Komatsu Air Base in Ishikawa prefecture along the Sea of Japan.

Lt. Col. David Youtsey, the 35th Operations Group deputy commander and Misawa detachment commander for the exercise, said the weeklong training was aimed at sharpening readiness and cooperation while allowing U.S. and Japanese forces to compare hardware and techniques. It targets a broad range of capabilities, he added, from operations and maintenance to logistics and support.

"We want to watch and observe what they’re doing and allow them to do the same," Youtsey said Thursday. "We’ll take some things and incorporate them into the way we do business as well.

"You really don’t know how well you do things until you look through the lens and compare it to how others are doing it."

During the week, 13th Fighter Squadron and JASDF pilots flew four different types of missions — from one-vs.-one basic fighting maneuvers to four-vs.-four air combat tactics scenarios. They completed about 30 sorties overall.

"It was better than I had planned on going in," said Capt. Don Davenport, an F-16 pilot with the 13th Fighter Squadron. "Getting to know the guys before and after the flight, and hearing what they had to say, was very beneficial. We got to see how they train, how they fly and how they fight."

During debriefings, Youtsey said Misawa officials showcased use of the air combat maneuvering instrumentation system, which regenerates an entire flight on a large video screen. "It’s like the 21st-century version of ‘Top Gun,’ " he added.

Senior Airman David Garza of the 35th Maintenance Operations Squadron said it was a good experience working with JASDF maintainers on the same flight line.

"After a couple days, since our jobs are very similar, we learned pretty quickly from each other," Garza said. "We didn’t really have a problem toward the end of the week with the language barrier."

Youtsey said the Misawa airmen also immersed themselves in Japanese military culture, which strengthened personal and professional bonds.

"It’s been a perfect blend of sortie generation and flying, with some leisure time," he said. "They’re working enough where the entire day is occupied with military activity."

But evenings have been a good opportunity to get to know their Japanese counterparts.

"Our airmen are going to go back to Misawa … with a better understanding of how they fit in the big picture of U.S.-Japanese relationships."

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