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Tales from Yokota AB: 4th RS airmen in the community

  • Published
  • 319th Reconnaissance Wing public affairs

Having friends in many different places is important when your mission takes you all over the world. With geographically separated units around the globe, the 319th Reconnaissance Wing works to make lasting bonds with the nations hosting its squadrons abroad.

The airmen stationed at the GSUs are also leading the grassroots effort of forging lasting friendships with the communities around them. Many of the airmen from the 4th Reconnaissance Squadron have immersed themselves in the local community while deployed to Yokota Air base, Japan.

The unit out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, deploys each summer to avoid Guam’s typhoon season.

Master Sgt. Aldwin Yves Del Rosario, the quality assurance chief inspector with the 4th RS, made a lifelong friend through local cuisine when he met a restaurant owner near base.

“It gives you that sense of belongingness wherever you are,” Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario said having a familiar community makes having a deployment easier.

Year after year of deploying to and from Yokota AB, Del Rosario found the feeling of belonging in a little soup restaurant ran out of a trailer where the cook always promised him a warm meal and a warm welcome on his next trip back.

“For a unit like us, you can argue that you don’t really have a home,” Del Rosario said. “But going out and experiencing the local community, creating those connections, can really give you that feeling of belonging.”

Airman 1st Class James Evangelos, a cyber security journeyman with the 4th RS, practices yoga at an off-base studio with some of his fellow airmen, bringing people together through finding inner peace Evangelos explained.

“I think it’s really important that we sustain the relationship we have with, not only the government here but also the people,” Evangelos said. “Having the local community understand and support the mission we man at Yokota Air Base is a key factor to mission success.”

Evangelos said Bikram Yoga has been a part of his life for around 20 years, and he can go from country to country and find like-minded people to practice and connect with.

Using mutual interests to meet and talk to people provides the local community an opportunity to learn and connect with the service members living as guests in Japan.

Lt. Col. John Wright, the commander of the 4th RS, has taken a vested interest in connecting with his host nation through the Musashi-Murayama friendship club. He’s spent the last year attending functions, farewell parties and ceremonies and acts as an interpreter between the U.S. and Japanese club members when needed.

“The best thing about the club is that it brings together local Japanese citizens and community members with Americans who normally would have nothing in common,” Wright said. “I have heard some incredible stories about how members of the Japanese community have interacted with those stationed at Yokota AB for decades. The friendship club is one of the best opportunities to showcase the positive side of the U.S. presence here in Japan and to interact with these people on a personal basis.”

Wright explained that creating long-lasting friendships with the local community around Yokota AB supports not only the missions of the base but also the airmen powering the mission. Fostering strong partnerships with international partners allows the Air Force to use varied perspectives and mutual respect to improve interoperability, efficiency, creativity and lethality.