CAMP ZAMA, Japan — The U.S. Army Japan’s Cooperative Work Program, or Co-op, gives Japan Ground Self-Defense Force troops a rare opportunity to live, train and work alongside their American counterparts for three months at Camp Zama.

During that time, the JGSDF and U.S. Army troops exchange knowledge and experience in what has become a successful bilateral interface, program officials said.

Japanese soldiers participating in the 52nd Co-op benefitted from a different U.S. service component Friday as Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Warren Ary spoke to the group.

Teaching a class on mentoring, Ary — communications site chief for the 374th Communications Squadron Operation Location Charlie — said his goal was to expand the participants’ vision of the mentoring process and the importance of communicating with their soldiers.

"I love doing these types of classes," Ary said.

Ary’s unit, a 30-man Air Force communications detachment assigned to Camp Zama, has become more and more involved in the Co-op program, he said.

"Each Co-op session, we provide a tour of our site," he explained. "We asked to see if we could do more."

Working with Sgt. 1st Class Eric Rodriguez, a Co-op liaison, Ary said they came up with teaching the mentoring class, and he believes mentoring concepts transcend service and even cultural boundaries.

"I taught almost the same briefing to an Afghan [communications] unit last year," he said.

The soldier students said the Air Force senior NCO’s class was very informative.

"There’s no textbook right answer for mentoring," said Sgt. Maj. Yuka Ishikawa, of the Eastern Army Intelligence Analysis Unit, adding that a similar mentoring system exists in the JGSDF.

Ary stressed that being a good mentor to junior soldiers and setting a good example are important because some of those junior servicemembers are future leaders.

"We all share the same burden," said 2nd Lt. Hisanaga Nakano of the JGSDF’s 1st Combined Brigade, based on Okinawa.

He said Ary’s message about taking time to really get to know one’s soldiers is important, and that he’ll be taking that idea back to his unit.

Nakano said information-sharing is valuable in suicide prevention — something, he said, that has become an increasing problem in the Japanese military.

Top-level commanders can do only so much, he said, contending that Ary’s hands-on approach to mentoring may be more effective at confronting the problem.

Ary said he’s happy to share his knowledge and experience.

"It’s the right thing to do, to help out," he said. "And as senior NCOs, we’re taught to help others."

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