TOKYO — The Air Force will continue its four-month deployments in support of the war, a rotation that has become the norm for many airmen, their families and units around the world, according to the U.S. Forces Japan commander.

"I’ve not gotten any feedback that indicates that this is a problem for our airmen," Air Force Lt. Gen. Edward Rice said Wednesday of the rotating deployments to places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We’ve got a significant number of our airmen who know nothing, quite frankly, but the 120 days because that’s all they’ve seen since they’ve been on active duty," Rice said during an interview with Stars and Stripes on Wednesday.

Rice, a bomber pilot who now wears three stars, took command of USFJ three months ago at a time when a rape allegation against a Marine on Okinawa prompted local outcries and international attention.

Rice has since released findings of a sexual assault prevention task force in an effort to review and re-emphasize existing training throughout mainland Japan and Okinawa. The Marine, Staff Sgt. Tyrone L. Hadnott, 38, will be confined three years and be dishonorably discharged in exchange for pleading guilty to one count in connection with case.

"I’m satisfied that we collectively have taken the right actions to work our way through this situation," he said.

Rice also has turned his attention to other matters, including future training needs for aerial ranges in Japan, the arrival of the first forward-deployed nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Japan, and staffing adjustments as the Air Force’s downsizing starts to have a permanent effect on units in South Korea, Japan and Okinawa.

Rice said transformation plans for USFJ and the Japan Self-Defense Forces remain on target, including the move of the Navy’s Carrier Air Wing 5 from Atsugi Naval Air Facility to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni by 2014.

But as the U.S. Air Force in Japan transforms — including the eventual addition of F-35 fighter jets — and as more entities need more airspace, the Air Force must look toward other options to satisfy training needs, Rice said. That means holding on to the range space the U.S. military uses in Japan and looking forward as troop numbers expand on Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.

"We’ve got to be innovative about how we think about ranges and how we think about airspace," Rice said. "It’s always going to be difficult to get more airspace. It’s always going to be difficult to get more range space. It’s a matter of capturing what we have and using it in the right way and posturing ourselves to use it in the right way."

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