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Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki, left, and Brig. Gen. Bill Rew walk down the hall at wing headquarters Tuesday on their way to address a group of first-term airmen.

Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki, left, and Brig. Gen. Bill Rew walk down the hall at wing headquarters Tuesday on their way to address a group of first-term airmen. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki, left, and Brig. Gen. Bill Rew walk down the hall at wing headquarters Tuesday on their way to address a group of first-term airmen.

Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki, left, and Brig. Gen. Bill Rew walk down the hall at wing headquarters Tuesday on their way to address a group of first-term airmen. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Brig. Gen. Bill Rew shows Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki where to sign a document as part of the mayor's "wing commander for a day" duties.

Brig. Gen. Bill Rew shows Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki where to sign a document as part of the mayor's "wing commander for a day" duties. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Brig. Gen. Bill Rew, left, 35th Fighter Wing and Misawa Air Base commander, instructs Misawa City Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki on flying techniques used in an F-16 flight simulator.

Brig. Gen. Bill Rew, left, 35th Fighter Wing and Misawa Air Base commander, instructs Misawa City Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki on flying techniques used in an F-16 flight simulator. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Misawa City Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki records a commander's message at Misawa's American Forces Network on Tuesday as part of his "wing commander for a day" duties.

Misawa City Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki records a commander's message at Misawa's American Forces Network on Tuesday as part of his "wing commander for a day" duties. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Misawa City Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki on Tuesday signed thank-you letters to American Day volunteers, met with first-term airmen, ate lunch with group commanders, rode in an F-16 flight simulator and recorded a televised commander’s message in the American Forces Network studio.

If the mayor’s day sounded more like 35th Fighter Wing commander Brig. Gen. Bill Rew’s routine, well, that’s because it was.

Rew on Tuesday invited Suzuki to be “wing commander for a day,” offering Misawa’s long-time mayor an inside — albeit condensed — look into what it means to be responsible for 10,000 servicemembers, civilians and dependents assigned to the 35th Fighter Wing, Naval Air Facility Misawa and various tenant commands.

After only a few hours of wearing a commander’s one-star flight suit and shadowing Rew, Suzuki concluded the job was hard.

“I didn’t expect being a wing commander is so tough,” Suzuki said through his interpreter.

Flying, even in a simulator, was troublesome, he said.

“I didn’t know what happened,” he said. “I can understand I’m flying, but that’s all I can understand.”

Rew tried to put the experience into perspective: “The average pilot takes over two years to learn how to fly an F-16. Two minutes for the mayor of Misawa.”

Rew invited Suzuki to wing headquarters to reciprocate the mayor’s gesture in June when he asked Rew to be “mayor for a day.”

But the swap also represents, both leaders said, a strong friendship first forged between the two when Rew was 35th Operations Group commander from June 1998 to June 2000.

“We have lunch on a regular basis to discuss anything that concerns the community and the base,” Rew said. “Our relationship here is so special. We want to keep it strong.”

Rew and Suzuki expressed a similar message to 10 first-term airmen newly arrived at Misawa.

Suzuki told the group he’s been Misawa mayor for 18 years and believes in co-existence and co-prosperity between Misawa Air Base and the city.

In order to achieve those goals, there are certain rules the airmen should heed, he said.

“You are not welcome when you speed … and you are not welcome if you drink too much and are wild late at night. You have to keep yourself under control to be a good neighbor,” Suzuki said.

Rew invited Suzuki to his monthly working lunch with squadron and group commanders. Each of the group commanders was to report to Suzuki on activities within their group, Rew said, noting the menu was the mayor’s favorite of club sandwiches and vanilla ice cream.

Before heading off to lunch, Suzuki said he was most impressed by the maintainers’ work and the fact they could fix both small and large parts, from helmet components to engines.

He understood that pilots and maintainers must “do their best in order for Gen. Rew not to be worried or concerned.”

Suzuki said he was sorry to see Rew go. The 35th Fighter Wing change-of-command ceremony is Friday.

Rew will next command the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

“I will miss him and his family very much,” Suzuki said.

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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