Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan (NNS) -- Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi welcomed Sailors from commands across Japan, Soldiers from the U.S. Army and Sailors from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) for the U.S./JMSDF Non-Commissioned Officer Leadership Continuum at Club Trilogy June 5-7.
The continuum was the third in the series and consisted of 11 Sailors, 12 JMSDF service members, and one U.S. Army Soldier. During the three-day class, the group talked about topics such as professional growth and development, family support, destructive behaviors, and women in the workplace.
Students in the class were challenged to talk openly about policies with their Japanese counterparts in an environment with five JMSDF and 3 U.S. Navy command master chiefs as facilitators.
"I think it is pretty easy to look at policy and be critical of policy," said Commander, Naval Forces Japan Command Master Chief Joe Fahrney, one of the facilitators during the course. "But, it is a much more difficult conversation to look at how we behave in response to policy and what our own individual actions in our work centers and in our commands can do to contribute to the effectiveness of our mission."
American service members and their Japanese counterparts sat side by side and conducted group discussions on policies in place in their respective service and how certain policies in the armed services on both the American and JMSDF side may reflect cultural views from their society.
"We obviously have a different intake and outtake on different issues," said Air Traffic Controller 2nd Class Kunio Toyama, a JMSDF sailor Air Patrol Squadron 3. "I was able to talk about issues very freely with my American counterparts on issues that have not really shown up in our society or we don't think about on a daily basis."
The facilitators designed the course to cover some civil rights in the workplace issues such as transgender implementation and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the armed services.
"I think that this is a real good opportunity for awareness," said Fahrney. "So, as I listened to the groups as a facilitator while I am walking around, I am seeing folks just really don't understand what they don't know. So, by throwing out an idea and having somebody with just a little bit of willingness to push that idea a step further, we are learning much more about each other and in terms of capabilities, I think that makes the Sailors much more capable leaders."
The class heavily revolved around the service members' participation where they set the pace within their groups as to what topics were discussed more in depth than others.
"I didn't think the class would be as interactive as it was," said Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Teresa Domingo, from Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Detachment Atsugi. "I thought it would be more senior leadership talking and saying 'this is what you do' and a few exercises here and there."
All of the service members volunteered to have the opportunity to work closely with their Japanese counterparts in classroom environment to help build better relationships and a better understanding of our host nation and its service members.
"Many of these Sailors enjoy service in Japan, they've got Japanese nationals for spouses or close friends that are Japanese nationals," said Fahrney. "But really have not been used at this kind of context, strategic level thinking to get after very complicated worldwide issues. They haven't pushed that kind of thing. So, getting out of that comfort zone and pushing beyond self-imposed limitations is really what I want them to take away from this course."
Being stationed overseas and working closely with our host nation exposes service members to a different culture that may come with different views.
"It is a continual learning process," said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class James Venzella, from Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo. "Especially since we are operating in their country, so to learn some of the things that they do or some of the things that they are doing, it could help us as a total force and help us understand what they do.
The class concluded with a graduation ceremony where service members were presented their certificates and two of those students were selected as the honor graduates. From the JMSDF side Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Hiroshi Nakatsuru was selected and from the U.S. services side Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Teresa Domingo was selected.
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