10th Support Group LTF makes history during Orient Shield 23
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – 10th Support Group personnel load vehicles at Chitose Airport onto a truck to prepare for transport to a remote site in Northern Japan in support of Orient Shield 23 on Sept. 13.

Orient Shield is the largest annual bilateral training exercise conducted in Japan between the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. Army. (Photo Credit: Brian Lamar)
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10th Support Group LTF makes history during Orient Shield 23
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A Mississippi Air National Guard C-17 pulls into Chitose Airport in Northern Japan to deliver 1-181 Field Artillery Battalion Tennessee National Guardsmen, vehicles and equipment in support of Orient Shield 23 on Sept. 13.

Orient Shield is the largest annual bilateral training exercise conducted in Japan between the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. Army. (Photo Credit: Brian Lamar)
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On Sept. 13th at Chitose Airport in Northern Japan, a six-person Logistics Task Force prepped a space on the tarmac to receive personnel, vehicles and equipment arriving on a C-17 to support Exercise Orient Shield.

As 1st Lt. Keldron Bonds, the LTF officer in charge and a Corinth, Mississippi native, briefed his team while the aircraft rolled into view, a grin spread across his face. The C-17 was a Mississippi Air National Guard asset assigned to the 172nd Airlift Wing home based in Jackson, Miss., which was a surprise to Bonds.

According to Kenji Watanabe, an Exercise Orient Shield 23 site support planner with the U.S. Army Japan, the event was notable and historical. Once the MSANG aircraft taxied to its unloading spot, airport personnel, members of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force and other spectators scrambled to get a better look and photographs to commemorate the occasion.

“I have been supporting exercises in this area for 25 years to include North Wind, Orient Shield and Yama Sakura. We have never had a C-17 hosted here at Chitose Airport. This is a very rare event. That is why so many people are looking excited,” Watanabe said.

Bonds and his six-man team didn’t have much time to gawk as they went into action mode. A site was set up to scan in Soldiers entering into the area of operations, while 1-181 Field Artillery Battalion Tennessee National Guardsmen , vehicles and equipment began unloading from the aircraft and were loaded onto a convoy of flatbed trucks destined for a four-hour convoy to a remote exercise location.

According to Bonds, efficiency, accuracy and safety were his main concerns. Once everything was loaded and headed to its destination, his task force had successfully coordinated the reception of personnel, vehicles and equipment, as well as, transportation to their destination. This was the third large movement of troops since he arrived the week prior. These new guardsmen put his team of well over 500 troops to process through his site.

"I love solving problems and helping support people,” said Bonds. "When people come to me with a mission or a problem to solve and I can figure out the answer for them, it is very rewarding. My regular job is S1/admin and customer service is important to me,” he said. Bonds and his task force talked through their process and had things locked in. Several Soldiers noted that their process was so smooth they couldn’t believe they had all been scanned in and ready for transport without waiting for more than 60 seconds in line. “That was faster than a Chick-fil-A drive-thru," joked one Tennessee Guardsman as he loaded onto his bus amongst the laughter of his teammates.

Bonds and his team will continue to operate the Chitose LTF for two more weeks ensuring that everyone will exit Japan at the conclusion of the exercise. According to Bonds, a highlight was assisting the guardsmen from back home.

"I felt a sense of accomplishment seeing the C-17 land and it having my home state written on it,” Bonds said. “All I could think of was that I’ve come a long way from those dirt roads of Mississippi to be able to accomplish this mission,” he said thoughtfully.