MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, opened its gates to approximately 210,000 guests for the 41st Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force – MCAS Iwakuni Friendship Day, May 5, 2017.
Since 1973, MCAS Iwakuni has held a single-day air show designed to foster positive relationships and offer an elevating experience that displays the communal support between the U.S. and Japan.
“Friendship day is a community relations event,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Nathan Hoff, station operations officer and air show director. “The big thing to me is the opportunity we have to open our gates and welcome in the whole community of Japan. They are able to see what we are all about . . . our ability to perform military tasks as well as integrate in with the JMSDF. Whether it’s training for real-world contingencies or in this case hosting a community-related event . . . it is an opportunity to showcase our bilateral cooperation.”
Hoff also said this year differs from others as it highlights aerial performances and capabilities including a Marine Air-Ground Task Force demonstrating aviation support for ground units.
Performances included the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team, Whiskey Papa Skywriting, Evolve Aerosports Squirrel-Suit jump, and demonstrations of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force rappelling team, U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey, MAGTF, Pacific Air Forces’ F-16 demonstration team and Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s Blue Impulse.
During the MAGTF demonstration, onlookers observed close air support, simulated aerial refueling and the extended capabilities of Marine Corps assets that are designed to perform in expeditionary environments.
The air show also encompassed various U.S. and Japanese static display aircraft, food and entertainment. Some displays included F/A-18C and F/A-18D Hornets, an MV-22B Osprey and F-35B Lightning II from the U.S. Marine Corps’ III Marine Expeditionary Force, an F-16 Fighting Falcon, an A-10 Thunderbolt II, and a KC-135 Stratotanker from U.S. forces in Korea.
“We have a multitude of U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force aircraft from throughout the Pacific area of operations,” said Hoff. “The Japan Self-Defense Force will also be providing displays of their planes and helicopters. We will also have some civilian aircraft displayed and a DC-3 presented by Breitling. For anyone who is interested in aviation, there is something out here for them to see.”
Included among the exhibits were the U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando II, C-1, A6M Zero, and MCH-101 from the JSDF, along with WACO biplanes and Cessna airplanes from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Japan.
Visitors were also provided the opportunity to observe ground-combat element capabilities from Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 through heavy and utility equipment, Expeditionary Field Kitchen and a variety of military vehicles.
Also, Marines with Headquarters and Support Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, currently forward deployed to Okinawa, Japan, from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, displayed their proficiencies in ground tactics.
“This is my first time visiting Friendship Day, and I loved watching the air show,” said Kuniko Koyanagi, a Friendship Day guest. “The Americans seem very friendly, and I want to come back even though it is very far from Sapporo, my home.”
Japanese visitors traveled from all over Japan to experience the one-day event, hoping to capture firsthand the unique U.S.-Japan security alliance and the various Marine Corps capabilities showcased at the event.
“Friendship Day is one of the many ways MCAS Iwakuni can show their respect for the Japanese people, their culture and their country,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Richard F. Fuerst, commanding officer of MCAS Iwakuni. “This is the third year that we have conducted this airshow with the JMSDF, and this highlights the mutually-beneficial relationship we have, not only with them but with the local Iwakuni community.”
Although Friendship Day is a one-day event, it exemplifies and reaffirms the remarkable bond constructed between two nations.
“Friendship day is a great example of the U.S.-Japan alliance,” said Fuerst. “I want to thank Rear Adm. Futakawa, Fleet Air Wing 31 commander, and all of the sailors of FAW-31 for their support in hosting this air show with us. This cooperation is another example of the great alliance between the United States and Japan, and I am extremely proud of the relationship we have with FAW-31 and the local community. I look forward to many years of being a good neighbor.”