My time at Komaki Air Base

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force member (top left) poses with a group of Yokota Airmen at a samurai souvenir store during the noncommissioned officer exchange at Komaki Air Base, Japan, March 23, 2015. Thirteen NCOs from Yokota were able to participate in the exchange. (Courtesy photo)

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force member (top left) poses with a group of Yokota Airmen at a samurai souvenir store during the noncommissioned officer exchange at Komaki Air Base, Japan, March 23, 2015. Thirteen NCOs from Yokota were able to participate in the exchange. (Courtesy photo)

Staff Sgt. Bryan Bentley, 374th Operations Support Squadron (left), and Tech. Sgt. Terreil Reed, 730th Air Mobility Squadron, receive a lesson by Japan Air Self-Defense Force members on how to refuel aircraft in the air during the noncommissioned officer exchange program at Komaki Air Base, Japan, March 23, 2015. The device Reed has on allows him to see through a camera that is under the refueling aircraft. With the headset and the controls in his hand, Reed would be able to successfully refuel an aircraft with the proper training. (Courtesy photo)

Staff Sgt. Bryan Bentley, 374th Operations Support Squadron (left), and Tech. Sgt. Terreil Reed, 730th Air Mobility Squadron, receive a lesson by Japan Air Self-Defense Force members on how to refuel aircraft in the air during the noncommissioned officer exchange program at Komaki Air Base, Japan, March 23, 2015. The device Reed has on allows him to see through a camera that is under the refueling aircraft. With the headset and the controls in his hand, Reed would be able to successfully refuel an aircraft with the proper training. (Courtesy photo)

Yokota Airmen pose for a picture with Japan Air Self-Defense Force members at a restaurant during the noncommissioned officer exchange program at Komaki Air Base, Japan, March 23, 2015. Thirteen Airmen from Yokota stayed at Komaki Air Base for eight days and were able to experience the differences and similarities of U.S. and Japanese military life. (Courtesy photo)

Yokota Airmen pose for a picture with Japan Air Self-Defense Force members at a restaurant during the noncommissioned officer exchange program at Komaki Air Base, Japan, March 23, 2015. Thirteen Airmen from Yokota stayed at Komaki Air Base for eight days and were able to experience the differences and similarities of U.S. and Japanese military life. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force members pose for a picture outside the wing building during the noncommissioned officer exchange program at Komaki Air Base, Japan, March 27, 2015. Yokota’s Airmen were able to tour the facilities, see day-to-day operations and work with our Japanese counterparts. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force members pose for a picture outside the wing building during the noncommissioned officer exchange program at Komaki Air Base, Japan, March 27, 2015. Yokota’s Airmen were able to tour the facilities, see day-to-day operations and work with our Japanese counterparts. (Courtesy photo)

KOMAKI AIR BASE, Japan -- Thirteen lucky NCOs were allowed the opportunity to travel to Komaki Air Base, Japan, to experience what it's like to work with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. I was very anxious to see what the base was like and to meet my Japanese partner.  After a short flight by C-130 Hercules, we were graciously greeted by our JASDF counterparts and briefed on the week's activities.

Our first encounter was a little awkward because it was very difficult to make conversation with my partner and I wanted to represent our Air Force the best I could. After some struggling, we were able to find a good way to communicate, mainly through Google Translate.

During the first couple of days we were given a tour of the base, met with leadership, and strengthened our bond with our Japanese allies. We also had the opportunity to explore outside the gates by visiting Inuyama Castle, while freely admiring what Nagoya City had to offer.

Amongst our travels, we were given the opportunity to learn much about the similarities and difference between our two Air Forces. JASDF organizational structure is very similar to ours. They have a primary wing organized into groups and squadrons. We first visited the Tactical Airlift Wing; where we were given an exciting tour of the JASDF's primary aircraft, the C-130H and the KC-767, based off the Boeing 767. The Japanese plan to upgrade the C-130H to the J-model very soon. 

Afterward, we visited the weather squadron, where we discussed weather ops and the equipment used to complete their job. I don't think we ever got comfortable with removing our shoes between the visits to each building. 

Later we took a tour of the air traffic control squadron, where we had the chance to climb to the top of the control tower and watch as daily tower operations were commencing.

Finally, we visited the 5th Technical School, where young enlistees are given the foundation of their technical careers.  The JASDF's upgrade training is also similar to ours, upgrading to three, five, seven and nine-level based on their technical expertise. They also test for advancement in rank just as we do.

Although there are many similarities in our military culture, there are also quite a few differences.

Basic Military Training last for three months, and the lower ranking JASDF Airmen have a few more restrictions than our Airmen. Usually three Airmen share a BMT-style room. They aren't allowed internet and curfew is 9:30 p.m. There is also a lights out policy at 10 p.m. on the weekdays and 11 p.m. during the weekends. Even though they have a few more limitations, the discipline and dedication to duty is a quality the JASDF Airmen all share equally.

For the rest of the week, we partnered with our counterparts to work in our respective work centers. This was when I was the most nervous; my partner could not speak English very well, and I don't speak Japanese but I wanted to make a good impression on the shop. Everyone was fascinated to have me visit, but they didn't hesitate to put me to work.

Normally I work in the management section of vehicle maintenance, but they had me work on the shop floor instead, where I did a little bodywork on a van that was involved in an accident. I've never done anything like that before so it was very exciting. Every night after work, everyone got together to enjoy more of the city, where we ate good food and shared many laughs. This was my favorite part of the trip and I've built a very strong relationship with the other NCOs that accompanied me. But most importantly I've established a lasting friendship with my Japanese counterpart. We will continue to keep in touch through the years.