At the divide of the Philippine Sea and the East China Sea, between mainland Japan and Taiwan is the strategic island of Okinawa. A tropical island, hard fought for with the blood and sacrifice of thousands of U.S. Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airman in the last century.
The U.S. air base in Okinawa, called Kadena, is home to the U.S. Air Force’s largest combat Fighter Wing, the 18th, which deploys over 50 F-15 Fighters to control the air space in this critical region. The U.S. Navy also uses Kadena AFB as a base when it is forward-operating in the East China Sea with 7th Fleet’s Aircraft Carrier Battle Group, home ported in Yokosuka, Japan. The United States stations thousands of Marines across several bases in Okinawa for amphibious operations to gain quick access to the islands and coasts of East Asia should a crisis require them.
On this same island, where thousands of Japanese and Okinawans also shed blood and sacrificed in the last century, are units of the Japanese Self Defense Forces, stationed alongside the American Armed Forces deployed there.
Japan also has its largest Fighter Air Wing based on Okinawa, made up of F-15 fighters at Nada Air Base. Over this past year, these Japanese forces have flown over 500 sorties to intercept mostly Chinese and Russian aircraft intruding on Japanese airspace. There are currently territorial disputes of Japanese islands with China. China claims these islands’ natural resources as it continues its protracted effort to exert more influence in this critical strategic region.
With this partnership of U.S. and Japanese air power controlling the air space in this region to maintain the status quo, along with the U.S. 7th Fleet’s Carrier Battle Group that operates in this region, Okinawa has a requirement to defend these military assets with an Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) capability from both partnering nations. The United States and Japan both deploy Patriot Advanced Capability-3 systems on this island to defend against air breathing and ballistic missiles. The United States has the U.S. Army’s 1-1 Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Battalion deployed on Kadena Air Base, and the Japanese have their 5th Air Defense Missile Group deployed throughout the island. Alongside these two missile defense systems, the Japanese Self Defense Forces have a Short Ranged Air Defense (SHORAD) system equipped with Avengers and Stingers to defend the U.S. and Japanese air bases against air breathing threats.
Having defensive capabilities around offensive systems enhances regional stability, and establishes a much higher threshold to start conflict, thus reinforcing peace and the status quo.
On Tuesday night, MDAA had the distinguished honor of recognizing the very best air and missile defense Soldiers and Airmen deployed on Okinawa for 2014 from the U.S. Army and the Japanese Air and Ground Self Defense Forces at the NCO Club at Kadena AFB.
The distinguished Japanese commander of Air and Missile Defense in Japan’s southwest region, Lieutenant General Yoshiyuki Sugiyama and the U.S. commander of the 94th Army Air Missile Defense Command, Brigadier General Eric Sanchez, spoke and presented to this team of Okinawa Air and Missile Defenders their awards for being the best.
Also presenting was the commander of the U.S. 1-1 ADA “Snake Eyes” Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Ben Ogden and the commander of Japan’s15th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Colonel Fujita. Also in attendance was the commander of the Japan’s 5th Air Defense Missile Group, Colonel Takehira of the Japanese Air Self Defense Force.
The Winners of the Second Annual Okinawa Missile Defender of the Year are:
From the United States Army:
ECS Charlie Battery, 1-1 ADA Battery
2LT Patrick Rachel
SGT Hillard Rossiter
SPC Anthony Narciso
BCP Charlie Battery, 1-1 ADA Battery
SPC Francisco Tovar
PFC Ted Murdock II
Launcher Delta Battery
SSG Aaron Smith
SPC Collin Cushing
SPC Andrew Gordon
PFC Tanner Hintzman
PFC Joshua Wells
From the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force:
MSG Manabu Kinjo
SGM Kazuyoshi Kawasaki
SFC Haruaki Sasaki
SFC Takashi Terasaki
SFC Tatsuya Yoshinaga
SGT Motoki Sueyoshi
From the Japanese Air Self Defense Force:
S.Sgt Shintaro Taguchi
S.Sgt Daiki Takahashi
We give great thanks to each one of these young men and women from two different countries and cultures, who have each displayed outstanding leadership and excellence in keeping this critical region safe and stable so it can continue to prosper. One Team. Always Ready.