When answering the call to serve in your nation’s military, you will come across men and women from all walks of life. Different cultures, ethnicities, perspectives and beliefs joining together in a common cause. Such can be said for two senior non-commissioned officers from the United States and Japan.
Command Sergeant Major Michael Burns, 7th Infantry Division Operations Sergeant Major for the Yama Sakura 83 Exercise, and Command Sergeant Major Isa Nakamura, Bilateral Training Section Operations Sergeant Major for the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Western Army, met one another while attending the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas and developed a bond that endures through today.
“We met during the opening ceremony of the Sergeants Major Academy class 65 in 2014 at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas” stated Nakamura.
“You have friends and acquaintances. An acquaintance is someone you know, you will see here and there. Maybe you move on, or maybe they do.” Added Burns. “A friend though, even if it’s been years since you’ve seen them it’s like you’ve never missed a moment and you fall right back into it, and work together easily and enjoying one another’s time. Starting right back where you left off. Going through the academy together was good. It opened my eyes a lot more to other Armies and other ways of leadership. The professional standards that other Armies have that we can learn from.”
Nakamura concurred exclaiming “Yes, exactly. Additionally, not only for the Army things but we can also learn how to grow our relationships and friendships. In doing this we can be an example. Great privilege for us.”
When asked how the two of them have remained so close.
“Social media for sure helps to stay in touch. However, the thing with Soldiers that really strengthens the bonds of true friendship isn’t just shared experiences. Its shared hardships that you endure together and learn from them together and through that grow together” stated Burns.
Over the last eight days the two comrades have been participants in the Yama Sakura 83 (YS 83) exercise taking place at Camp Kengun, Japan. Yama Sakura is a complex exercise that has been ongoing for over 40 years and continues to build the bilateral partnership of the strong Unites States and Japan alliance. The exercise enables participants to work as dedicated partners for continued peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Nakamura himself played a role in the planning of the exercise.
“I am a participant in this year’s exercise because of my extensive experience. I have participated in many of these sorts of missions throughout my career. My leadership wanted someone here that understands these exercises and hopefully can pass along some of that knowledge’ stated Burns.
With plenty of opportunities for others to follow in their example of epitomizing the spirit of Yama Sakura, the two Sergeants Major who have forged a friendship built on their shared vision of peace, and prosperity not just for the region but the world, have some sage words of wisdom for all participants.
“Advice that I would give to all Soldiers is to be adaptive. Soldiers that are adaptive make for a strong Army. Being agile is also key to winning the battle” exclaimed Nakamura. “We senior enlisted leaders should not be micromanaging. We should just provide the objective and let the Soldiers work through things. Don’t be afraid of new things. Accept challenges. We are here to maintain the peace and stability in the Pacific region. So to build our relationships not only at the non-commissioned officer’s level, but at the national level is important to keeping that stability and peace in this area. I am happy with my relationships and want the young Soldiers to follow this. Build those friendships and relationships. Standing shoulder to shoulder with one another, two strong nations in the face of any enemy.”
Burns added “I would say you need to have the ability to learn within your environment. And that’s really what we’re doing here. We’re learning from the new environment. Yes! Maybe a new system, right? A new process? Soldiers that can adapt and be agile will learn, which makes them more lethal on the battlefield. Makes them more productive. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable and that’s what this environment does. The nice thing about that for me is knowing I have a friend here, a true battle buddy that I can call at any time and ask for help. Knowing that when I am struggling I have someone who will sacrifice for me and will help me to the best of his ability. That makes a big difference in the overall scheme of things. By keeping the relationship between nations and building friendships the rest of the world knows we stand together. If worst case scenario we had to act, I truly believe that with what we learn here helps us to make us stronger and fight harder together.”
As Yama Sakura 83 draws to an end, many of the participants will walk away changed both professionally and personally. The bonds of camaraderie, friendship, and family that have grown during YS 83 will last through lifetimes. The enduring bonds of brotherhood between the two nations will echo for generations to come.