CAMP ZAMA, Japan – The most senior enlisted member of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force toured garrison facilities and spoke with US and Japanese personnel during his visit here Tuesday.
Warrant Officer Masanobu Murawaki, who has served as the sergeant major of the JGSDF since January, took part in the installation tour to better understand how American and Japanese partners interact in the Cooperative Work Program.
Murawaki first attended a farewell ceremony for JGSDF members who completed the latest iteration of the co-op program. Led by US Army Japan, the six-week bilateral engagement program aims to enhance the interoperability of both forces.
“The most important part is mutual understanding between Japan and the US,” Murawaki said of the program’s goal. “It will strengthen our bond and cooperation for the future.”
Command Sgt. maj. Justin E. Turner, senior enlisted leader for US Army Garrison Japan, then escorted Murawaki on the tour, which included stops at the Warrior Zone, library, Yano Fitness Center, as well as offices and a barracks building, where co-op participants worked and stayed on post.
“We got an opportunity to show the sergeant major exactly the different services that the US offered to the co-op personnel while they were here,” Turner said. “I think it was eye opening for him. He got to ask some questions and additionally, we got some feedback from the co-op individuals on maybe some ways we can improve our program.”
Turner said he met Murawaki in June during a bilateral symposium in the Kure area and invited him to see firsthand what co-op participants experience.
In the program, Turner said participants get the chance to observe capabilities the US Army could possibly bring to a future conflict. He added the close interaction with American counterparts also provides them an opportunity to hone their English skills.
“If we fight together, we have to train together,” Turner said of the program. “This will make us more capable if we ever do have to defend our nations.”
Master Sgt. Juan Polanco, noncommissioned officer in charge of preventive medicine at Public Health Command-Pacific, sponsored one of the participants. He said the program had his Japanese partners learn US Army tactics, techniques and procedures that could one day help them work side-by-side with Soldiers to quickly complete missions.
“It allows us to increase our interoperability, so that we can get after missions immediately,” Polanco said. “Time is how you seize the initiative.”
During the program, participants serve as action officers, liaison officers and interpreters in their assigned workplaces. They also undergo an intensive group-training course that includes staff and unit command briefings, tours and roundtables, and they present three public briefings in English.
After speaking with some participants, Murawaki said one of the other interesting things they told him about the program was seeing how Soldiers conducted unit-level physical training each day.
“They were inspired through the training,” he said, adding that he asked them to share that experience with their units and incorporate it into their training.
Murawaki said he also wanted JGSDF members to appreciate the human connection aspect of the program, which can lead to lasting partnerships with their American counterparts.
“The personal relationships that they establish through the program are very important,” he said. “That’s why I would like them to continue [building] these relationships.”
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