By Mr. Richard L Rzepka (USAG Okinawa)October 16, 2015
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group out of Okinawa, participated in the annual Japanese-American Friendship Festival Sept. 19-20 at Yokota Air Base, Japan, where more than 150,000 Japanese were able to get an up-close view of military hardware while enjoying bands, vendors and events.
The 1st Battalion Soldiers made several jumps out of C-130 Hercules aircraft amidst a throng of onlookers who were able to meet with the paratroopers first hand.
"The best part would be photo ops with the kids," said Sgt. Antonio Fernandez. "When they would come up to my fellow Soldiers and I, they would ask to take pictures with us with a look of admiration. It's the same look my little brother gives me when I come home," he said.
The two-day event is a gesture of friendship and a celebration of the unwavering alliance between the U.S. and Japan, according to officials. The Special Forces Soldiers from the "First in Asia" battalion have participated in the event for several years.
"Our unit and organization has come very far with its relationship with the Japanese," said Pvt. 1st Class Preston Halfacre. "It is an honor to participate in such an event to build a good reputation for our unit in the eyes of the host nation," he said.
Understanding cultural differences, while admiring respective similarities helps both the Japanese and the Americans realize the scale of the extraordinary relationship. Japan and the U.S. are the top two free-market economies in the world, and among its largest trade partners.
"Today our security relationship is vital -- not just to the region, but to the globe," said Daniel R. Russel, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs earlier this year. "The post-War period of regional peace and stability can't be taken for granted."
Our alliance is its cornerstone. And increasingly, our joint efforts are needed across the planet to combat threats as diverse as violent extremism, global warming, pandemic disease, and cyber-theft or even cyber warfare," he said.
For the paratroopers of 1st Battalion, their experience in Japan is enlightening and appreciable.
"I had plenty of time and chances during my off-hours to interact with our hosts and experience the Japanese culture," said Spc. Michael Goshen. "The experience was wonderful as I got to see the local culture and how our Japanese hosts go about their everyday life. After the jump, I felt a little like a celebrity having people coming up asking to have their picture taken with you … everybody smiling, having a great time -- Americans and Japanese together."