VMA-542 heads home

3 Jan 2017 | Lance Cpl. Joseph Abrego The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

U.S. Marines with Marine Attack Squadron 542 completed their Aviation Training Relocation Program at Chitose Air Base and headed back to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Dec. 22, 2016.

The ATR is an effort between the U.S. and Japan governments to increase operational readiness between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.

It also improves interoperability and reduces noise concerns of aviation training on local communities by disseminating training locations throughout Japan.

“It was a great experience,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Austin K. Weber, operations chief for VMA-542. “We really felt like we were working toward something with being in a different environment and getting the aircraft in and out constantly. There was a lot of cross training for the Marines and a lot of knowledge to be gained from the JASDF.” 

While learning from the JASDF, the Marines were also able to show their capabilities and share their familiarity with the AV-8B Harriers and unit operations. 

“The Marines have a different structure than we do,” said JASDF Staff Sgt. Tomonori Miura, maintenance controller with the 2nd Air Wing Maintenance Supply Group. “They have a different specialty, and they are very efficient with what they do. They have a different jet so I learned a lot about the Harrier and how the maintenance operations work.” 

Miura said it was really easy to make conversation with the Marines. Everyone took time to get to know one another, which helped a lot with the cooperation throughout the ATR and ensured that nothing was overlooked. 

The bonds built during the ATR continued after operations were completed, allowing Marines to explore the culture with the JASDF personnel. 

“We established really good working relations, and it didn’t just stop there,” said Weber. “A lot of the JASDF personnel were inviting us out, showing us their city and even taking us to Sapporo. It was nice to be able to carry those relations we had past the work day and really get to know and build on our cohesion.” 

Weber said they were able to interact with the Japanese and were able to see that even through the language barrier there were ways to communicate and build bonds.

Working through everything with their Japanese allies, VMA-542 worked toward achieving the goals of the ATR and made life-long friends along the way. 

“This was a good opportunity to meet Marines,” said Miura. “It was a great experience, and I’ve made memories that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’m looking forward to the next chance I get to meet more Marines.”