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LEAP Scholars facilitate integration of Japanese partners in Mobility Guardian 23

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  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

Air Mobility Command reached a new level of strategic partnership building and integration with the Japanese Self Defense Force and other international partners during the largest-ever, full-spectrum readiness exercise in the command’s history – MOBILITY GUARDIAN 23. 

Six multi-capable, language-enabled Airmen from the U.S. Air Force Language Enabled Airman Program provided critical language support for the event, including interacting with Japanese and U.S. military exercise personnel to facilitate conversations, planning efforts, and information sharing between the two countries.

"MOBILITY GUARDIAN 23 focused heavily on enabling Agile Combat Employment with our allies in the Indo-Pacific, which cannot happen if we don't understand each other. Having LEAP Scholars in the mix during the exercise helped us take integration and understanding to a new level to lay the groundwork for a fortified Joint Team ready to fight and win against our adversaries," said Gen. Mike Minihan, Commander, Air Mobility Command.

MOBILITY GUARDIAN 23, which occurred July 5-21, 2023, involved more than 3,000 U.S. and Allied Forces personnel; 15,000 U.S. and international global forces were represented with detachments from Japan, Australia, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the United States.

The 2023 iteration of this large-scale annual mobility exercise was designed to prepare Airmen to efficiently enact Agile Combat Employment, or ACE, in the Indo-Pacific region and advance a “free and open Indo-Pacific” - a strategic goal set within the Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy.

“We stand united with our partners and allies for a free and open Indo-Pacific. And that would apply to any potential adversary. We all want to present a Joint Force that’s ready, integrated, and agile,” Gen. Minihan said in an Air Force Times interview on July 9, 2023.

Japanese LEAP Scholar 2nd Lt. Rayne Jones saw his participation in this event as an opportunity to further the overall mission of the exercise by facilitating the integration of Japanese forces.

“The purpose of hosting MOBILITY GUARDIAN in the Pacific this year was to show our adversaries that we can cooperate and integrate with coalition forces in a region that is closer to home for our pacing competitor,” Rayne explained. “Japan is a very important partner, and by having them participate in the exercise, we showed that the U.S. can partner with and coordinate large-scale missions with not only the other English-speaking countries and other European countries, but also with big players who are already within the Pacific region.”  

Although in the early stages of their Air Force careers, several senior airmen played a critical role in facilitating Japanese language support during the event as one of their first major language utilization efforts in the Air Force. For Senior Airman Kelvin Chong, the experience helped him to develop a “complete translation mindset” to assist in resolving future language barriers in various missions.

“The translation experiences from this event helped me understand the strengths, weaknesses, and perspectives of the U.S. Air Force and other coalition forces such as Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom; this can give me insight into how to assist them better in coordination and communication when there is joint training or joint missions at Kadena Air Base or in the Pacific Region,” Chong said.

Even as a native Japanese speaker, Senior Airman Alan Watson learned new vocabulary specific to the military and national defense to add value and strengthen the relationship between the U.S. Air Force and JSDF. 

“The presence of U.S. military interpreters during this event demonstrated our commitment to East Pacific security and eagerness to work with bilateral partners like the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. This deepened the connection between the two countries, furthering the mission of the sponsoring organization and U.S. Foreign Policy,” Watson said.

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