Unishima Adventure: Joint Bilateral Exchange Program

  • Published
  • By Technical Sgt. Eric Williams
  • 374th Security Forces Squadron

Most of my military career was spent in Pacific Air Forces, mainly Misawa AB and Yokota AB. When I was a young Airman I always asked why we never conduct exercises with Japan Air Self-Defense Force. It all felt so segregated and I didn’t understand why. 

After returning to Japan in 2015, I was introduced to the amazing Bilateral Exchange Program by my leadership. The program selects Airmen who are interested in Japanese culture to get a great experience. 

We had the amazing opportunity to be the first American military members to set foot and stay on Unishima Substation since WWII for 6 days. 

We were all nervous with the language barrier and didn’t know what to expect living life as a JASDF member. We were all treated like generals and surprisingly communicated very well.

Most JASDF members we’ve met beforehand seemed shy and afraid of the language barrier, but not at Unishima.  The JASDF were very welcoming and super excited to see us all.  Everyone was so happy and ready for the experience the interaction with U.S. Forces.

It was a blast!  We learned a lot about Japanese and JASDF Culture.  We participated in mochi pounding, Shodo (Calligraphy), Sado (Tea Ceremony), Kendo, falling off horses and visited every historic site on Unishima and Tsushima; the larger island of the two islands.  We could not have asked for a better experience.   

The overall mission of JASDF and U.S. Forces are similar and we were all surprised to see very alike tactics, techniques and procedures being conducted.  This has been an amazing experience and I highly recommend this program for not only Japan but other overseas locations as well.

It not only encourages you to be a great ambassador but really shares a taste of both US and Japan relations. The relationships and bonds we made in such little time is something to remember.