U.S. AIR FORCE LT GEN KEVIN B. SCHNEIDER, Incoming Commander, U.S. FORCES JAPAN/5th Air Force
Good morning to all of you [delivered in Japanese]
(Acknowledgment of DVs)
- Vice-Minister Tsuji (Parliamentary Vice-Min for Foreign Affairs)
- Ambassador William “Bill” Hagerty (US AMB to Japan)
- Ambassador Stephen Payton (New Zealand AMB to Japan)
- ADM Kawano (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)
- Gen Marumo (JASDF Chief of Staff)
- ADM Philip “Phil” Davidson
- General Charles “CQ” Brown
- Men and women of JSDF/USFJ/5 AF, and all other distinguished visitors
Thank you very much for being here today.
I want to start by thanking the team at US Forces Japan and Fifth Air Force and the wing here at Yokota for putting this event together. I know that this was a big effort for the staffs and the base as a whole. My family and I truly appreciate all the tremendous work that went into making this happen.
To Admiral Davidson and General Brown – thank you for the opportunity to serve as the commander of both US Forces Japan and the commander of Fifth Air Force. I am truly honored by your confidence in my ability to lead our joint force Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines and to work with our incredible allies from Japan and to be able to advance the readiness and combat capabilities of our two militaries.
To my family – Lori, Anneliese, Abby, Mom and Dad. Thank you for all the love and support along the way. In the military, we often talk about sacrifice but don’t always give the family the credit for being the ones that make a lot of the sacrifices. I saw that with mom as my dad served in the U.S. Navy through significant amount of sea duty in his tenure. And I see it with my wife and daughters as they have borne the brunt of late nights, early mornings, combat deployments, remote tours, et cetera. Thank you for your sacrifices to allow me to wear the uniform and to serve.
To Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez – Thank you for the high bar you have set and the pace you have kept. Both Admiral Davidson and General Brown spoke about General Martinez’s accomplishments but I’ll just hit a few highlights. During his tenure here, our two nations have been faced with more numerous and more dangerous challenges. Challenges that not only impact our two nations, but the Indo-Pacific region as a whole and the world. For the last three years, I have been able to watch – from afar – as Lt Gen Martinez has navigated the storms. He’s done great work to improve alliance readiness through modernization, enhanced cooperation, interoperability, and intelligence sharing. He pushed for more frequent bilateral exercises and operations. He led the USFJ staff as it partnered with Japan to respond to and deter North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile provocations. He continued to prioritize the support for enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolutions aimed at preventing illicit ship-to-ship transfers of oil. He has also overseen greater interaction of our two militaries in the face of natural disasters. I am somewhat humbled knowing that it is up to me to continue the vision and the work that he has built. Sir thank you very much.
On a personal note, Japan holds a special place in my memory and my heart. When I was a young boy, my father was a naval officer stationed in Yokosuka. Some of my earliest memories as a kid were of living in Japan – living in Nagai, specifically running around in the local villages, seeing the local sights with my family and just being exposed to the culture. Many years later, I was stationed in Misawa as a young fighter pilot on my second operational tour. Misawa enjoyed a reputation for being one of the most tactically advanced F-16 units in the Air Force and we benefitted from the close relationship with the JASDF and the great training opportunities in northern Japan. I always look back fondly on the interactions we had with the JASDF units we had at Misawa, getting to fight the Chitose Eagles, the TDYs to Tsuiki and Nyatabaru. The time in Misawa was truly special for me as it really shaped my professional career and opened doors for me later.
Certainly as a young captain at Misawa, I benefitted from the strong tactical relationship between the US Air Force and the Koko-Jeitai. As I step into this role at U.S. Forces Japan and Fifth Air Force, I recognize that the strategic relationship of the U.S.-Japan Alliance is even greater than what I saw at the tactical level. For more than 70 years, the U.S.-Japan Alliance has been the cornerstone of stability and security in the Indo-Pacific and it will continue to serve that role in the future. Our alliance is built on shared interests, shared values, and a commitment to security. It serves as a beacon to those who value transparency in government, transparency in economic dealings, access to markets, access to domains, as well as respect for and protection of sovereignty. And while the U.S.-Japan Alliance has never been stronger – it has also never been more important to this region than right now as we face increasingly difficult security challenges.
Because of the clear threats to peace and security in this region, we must maintain the highest levels of readiness to respond at a moment’s notice to any threat, crisis, or humanitarian disaster. I look forward to serving with the 54,000 service members of US Forces Japan. Our soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen give the United States a vital forward deployed capability that deters aggression, aids in Japan’s defense, helps strengthen partnerships with other countries in the region, and enhances regional peace and security.
I also look forward to working the Government of Japan as we strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance and to serving with our incredibly capable partners in the Japan Self Defense Force as we continue to train and exercise together to improve interoperability and strengthen our capabilities. The training and operations we conduct are directly tied to our readiness. Readiness and lethality are essential to generating credible deterrence in an increasingly complex and highly demanding security environment. As our collective capabilities increase, we must find ways to continue to integrate in a seamless manner as so much rides on the effectiveness of our operations.
Again, I thank you for the honor to take command of U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force and to working and serving with you all.
We will do our utmost to develop the Japan-US alliance. We appreciate your continued guidance and encouragement. [delivered in Japanese]