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NAVAL AIR FACILITY MISAWA, Japan — The new commander of this northern Japan installation is an experienced naval aviator who was part of two historic deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Capt. James Haugen, an EA-6B Prowler pilot, said those experiences will serve him well in his new job.

"We have a lot of people deploying downrange from Misawa," he said of the Navy community. "I’m committed to supporting the sailors here and their families when they have to deploy. I’ve been there, I know what a challenge it is, and I’m excited to be able to support them."

Haugen took command of NAF Misawa on July 16 from Capt. Peter Rush, who departed for Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Washington to be chief of staff for Commander, Navy Region Northwest.

While Haugen won’t get to fly the Prowler on this assignment — he has 481 carrier landings — at Misawa he will on occasion pilot the Navy’s C-12, an airframe used to transport passengers and light cargo for various missions in the region.

Haugen deployed with the first Navy Prowler squadrons to go into Afghanistan and Iraq, providing electronic warfare support to U.S. ground forces.

"(In Iraq) I was working at headquarters safely behind the perimeter. However, many of the sailors that deployed with me … took their expertise out into the field with the soldiers and Marines on a daily basis," he said. "It was incredible to see their ability to adapt to a combat environment and immediately have an impact on force protection throughout the country."

Though he’s switching gears to lead the more than 600 sailors and their families assigned here, he said he’s excited to be back in Japan. He deployed here numerous times, once as the commander of Prowler squadron VAQ-142 during its 2004 deployment to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.

"Coming to Japan was a family decision," he said of his wife, Daisy, and the couple’s son, Chris, who enters eighth grade this fall. "We are looking forward to the adventure of a lifetime over the next three years."

In a recent interview with Stars and Stripes, Haugen talked about his goals and plans for the base.

"My primary focus is on improving the facilities and services that support the Navy and the many missions that we execute here," he said.

He hopes to keep the streak alive for Navy bachelor housing, winner of six consecutive Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Awards for excellence. About $1 million will be invested into the facility this year for improvements, including new carpet, Haugen said.

Haugen will also look to upgrade the Navy’s aircraft parking apron and direct plans for a new maintenance and storage building for ground support equipment, such as generator carts, snowplows and tractors.

"We’re looking at what we need to do to support the new Navy patrol aircraft, the P-8, as it comes on board in the future," he said.

Other topics Haugen touched on include:

■ His initial impressions of Misawa: "The people here are so warm and friendly, to include the people on and off base. They have really made me and my family feel like this is really going to be a great tour …"

■ Flying the Prowler: "It’s one of those missions, once you get into it, you can’t let it go. You’re involved with every aspect of warfare that the carrier air wing gets involved with."

■ His hopes to keep ties strong between the Navy and Japanese community in Misawa: "My goal is to continue that legacy because it really is unique … to have a local community provide such support and welcome to the military."

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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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