LAY OF THE (IS)LAND: US ARMY JAPAN COMMANDING GENERAL TOURS U.S. INSTALLATIONS, VISITS JSDF LEADERSHIP
TOKYO – When Army Maj. Gen. James F. Pasquarette assumed command of U.S. Army Japan (USARJ) July 8, 2015, he immediately took initiative to personally meet the troops under his command as well as key leaders from his host nation partners.
Pasquarette's tour of his area of responsibility began in earnest when he and members of his staff boarded a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter July 10 from Camp Zama, Japan. Flying hundreds of feet above the congested highways at sometimes at level with Japan's sea of skyscrapers, Pasquarette acquired a bird's eye view of the American and Japanese military installations scattered among the urban jungle.
“We overflew Sagami General Depot, Yokohama North Dock and Hardy Barracks, said Milton Jackson, garrison manager at Camp Zama. “Our new commander now has clearer picture of the facilities, equipment and watercraft managed by the Army, and he can better understand where and how these individual installations interact with one another.”
According to Jackson, the USARJ primary mission comprises the rapid deployment of troops and materiel from one theater to another. As the Army's largest logistical hub in Asia, the command must maintain a streamlined sustainment system capable of moving thousands of tons of supplies and equipment via land and sea.
“Sagami Depot has rolling stock and Yokohama North Dock has watercraft,” said Jackson. “We must overcome the challenges posed by Japan's dense population centers by developing methods that rapidly move and load stock onto our watercraft so that we may better project our presence in the Pacific. Fortunately, our Japanese allies are willing to support us if a major threat or disaster called for a sudden mass movement.”
After a brief stop at Yokota Air Base to meet with Air Force Gen. John L. Dolan, commanding general, U.S. Force Japan, Pasquarette touched down near the heart of Tokyo where members of America's staunchest allies welcomed him with the pomp and circumstance befitting a general.
“On behalf of the JGSDF (Japan Ground Self-Defense Force), welcome to Japan,” said Gen. Kiyofumi Iwata, chief of staff, JGSDF, to Pasquarette after the two commanders sat in a decorative conference room inside Japan's Ministry of Defense. “We look forward to continuing our dialog of bilateral coordination between our two countries as JGSDF pursues its transformation into a dynamic joint defense force.”
The dialog consisted of one-on-one conversations with not only Iwata but also Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of staff, Japan Self-Defense Force, and Hideshi Tokuchi, vice minister of international affairs, Japan Ministry of Defense. The four men discussed previous achievements, current operations and potential challenges facing their respective commands and presented ideas on how to strengthen interoperability among their forces through combined training exercises and expanded service member exchange programs.
“We currently have several dozen JSDF service members embedded with [U.S. military] units,” said Pasquarette. “I believe extending this program so that our Soldiers can work within the JGSDF will further enhance our partnership.”
Pasquarette also ensured his hosts that the United States Army remains committed to its allies in the Pacific despite looming force reductions and ongoing operations in Europe and the Middle East.
“The Army recently announced that it will cut the number of troops in the active component from 450,000 to about 410,000,” said Pasquarette. “This rebalance of the force has no effect on our strength and readiness in the Pacific. Our alliance is more important than ever. That's why we're keeping our best trained and best equipped Soldiers in Japan and Korea.”
After a two-hour visit that started with with a JSDF band playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and ended with a warm exchange of plaques and handshakes, Pasquarette and his team boarded a helicopter bound for Camp Zama.
“I have worked extensively throughout the Pacific during my Army career,” said the former armor officer and chief of staff of U.S. Army Pacific. “The JSDF consists of some of the world's most capable and professional men and women in uniform. I look forward to building stronger relationships with them and become a valuable partner in its transformation."
U.S. Army photos by Sgt. John L. Carkeet IV, U.S. Army Japan