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NEWS | Aug. 27, 2021

Lt. Gen. Kevin B. Schneider, U.S. Forces Japan & 5th Air Force Change of Command Speech



Welcome again and thank you all for being here today.  I want to once again acknowledge some of our distinguished visitors and good friends from the Government of Japan, the Japan Joint Staff, the Self-Defense Forces, and the US Embassy who travelled through Tokyo traffic to be with us: the Hon. Jan Adams, the Hon. Julia Longbottom, Mr. Raymond Greene, the Hon. Nakayama Yasuhide, Gen. Marumo Yoshinari, Lt. Gen. Morishita Yasunori, Vice Adm. Nishi Naruhito, Maj. Gen. Kameoka Hiroshi, and Maj. Gen. Yajima Masahito.

I also want to thank our US senior leaders for their trust and support over the past few years.  To Admiral Harris and General CQ Brown who selected me for the job of COMUSF and Fifth Air Force -- and to Admirals Davidson and Aquilino and to General Wilsbach under whom I have served.  I am grateful for all your guidance, top cover, and room to maneuver.

To my Japanese counterparts – and allies.  Thank you for all the teamwork, support and hard work.  More importantly, I am humbled and honored by the friendship you have extended to Lori and I during our time in Japan.  There are too many names to call out individually, but I must express my deepest appreciation to those I worked with most every day: JJS Chairman ADM Kawano, and GEN Yamazaki; Koku Jieitai Air Chiefs Gen Marumo, and Gen Izutsu; Air Defense Command Commanders Lt Gen Muto, Lt Gen Izutsu, and Lt Gen Uchikura; Vice Minister Shimada at MoD; DG Ichikawa at MoFA and so many others.

The issues were not always easy, but we faced them on a foundation of trust, teamwork and friendship.

The same goes for the USFJ Components; Eric Smith and Stacy Clardy at MARFOR-J; Viet Luong and JB Vowell at USAR-J; Fence Fenton, Brian Fort, and Carl Lahti at CNFJ; and the wing commanders in 5 AF – Basket Cunningham, Joker Carey, Putty Eaglin, Otis Jones, Andrew Campbell, Torch Struve, and Ammo Friedel.

I was honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with you all.

I must express my sincere gratitude and appreciation for the staffs at headquarters US Forces, Japan and at Fifth Air Force.  This award is a reflection of your incredible work, dedication and commitment to getting after the issues we face.  Day in and day out, you have made our bilateral relationship stronger, and more effective.  You have worked to improve training opportunities for US and Japanese forces; you have allowed warfighting readiness to advance – even in the face of the COVID pandemic.  You have protected the force of 135,000 men and women that live and serve on bases spread out over 1,300 miles.   Both the USFJ and 5AF staffs are certifiably too small – but you punch above your weight on every issue.  It is a joy to come to work every day and row hard with you all. 

This day is filled with many emotions: A bit of sadness as Lori and I say farewell to friends, partners, and teammates -- from both the United States and Japan, both uniformed service members and civilians, and their families. There’s a bit of excitement as we head to the next duty station as Lori and I rejoin with our daughters and our families.  Although there’s only so much excitement one should have when going to the Pentagon. And there’s also a sense of pride that goes along with having been part of this amazing alliance at such a critical time in history.

Two and half years ago, I stood here and spoke of the importance of the US-Japan alliance…that it was the most important alliance and strategic relationship the United States has…that the alliance was built on shared values of: transparency in government; transparency in economics; access to markets and fair trade; respect for sovereignty; and respect for human rights

I said all that from having seen it from afar for the previous four years.  But after living here for the past two and a half years and being a part of the alliance day in and day out…I will once again make those same statements with even greater emphasis and conviction.  The US-Japan alliance is THE most critical, THE most consequential, and THE most important alliance we have.  Its impacts reach and energy touch not only our two nations, but the region, and the globe. 

But the stakes today are higher than they were in February of 2019 and every day there are those who actively challenge the international order.  Authoritarian regimes in Beijing, Pyongyang, and Moscow continue to work to undermine peace and disrupt the security that has enabled economies to flourish.  In particular, the People’s Republic of China continues to behave in an increasingly aggressive manner and trample on democratic ideals and have worked to fracture and re-write a rules based international order that for decades has provided benefit and opportunity to all.   

These actions run adamantly against the core values we stand behind as the U.S.-Japan alliance.  And as an alliance we must maintain a credible deterrent to ensure the Indo-Pacific remains is a region where all nations can thrive and grow more prosperous.  

High levels of readiness and realistic, high-quality training by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and U.S forces are essential to providing credible deterrence every day.  We must ensure that as an alliance, our capabilities are moving at a speed of relevance, where they are advanced and innovative enough that we are able to uphold the commitments we’ve made in the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.  Our commitments can never just be rhetoric. It’s the actions we take – the bilateral training to ensure the interoperable defense required by the Treaty, the dedication of time and manpower to identifying and resolving vulnerabilities - that are truly essential for our security.  We have made progress over the past few years and I leave with a sense of accomplishment, but there is still much more work to be done.  We cannot accept status quo as the answer for training and readiness – because the threats continue to evolve rapidly.  We must expand our opportunities to train and exercise in highly realistic environments here in Japan and to do more with the forces we have now.  I know that it will not be easy to do, but it is absolutely necessary that we do so quickly.

I pass the flag to Ricky Rupp knowing that he’s extremely well equipped to continue to advance on the issues and challenges in front of us.  He and Charlotte will do amazing things for the alliance and the capability of our forces in Japan.  You’ve got a great leader coming on board.  And to Ricky – enjoy and cherish every day – the time will pass in a hurry.

Lori and I will miss being a part of this alliance team.  The issues were not always easy, but the teamwork and mutual understand were superb. We will miss you all and will be eternally grateful for the warmth of your friendship and the unwavering support.  Thank you.


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