JDF JapanDefenseFocus No.52

Interview with Lt. Gen. Salvatore A. “Sam” Angelella,
Commander of the U.S. Forces Japan and the 5th Air Force

Q Tell us what you value personally and professionally, as a commander here.

Dispatch of SDF Personnel to South Sudan
Dispatch of SDF Personnel to South Sudan

A.I think we value our friendships and the closeness of our family and our ties with our Japanese friends, both personally and professionally. So, when I travel to U.S. Air Force Bases in Misawa and Kadena, I have both professional friendships there with the SDF and also personal friendships with some local people. And I know that the other service members here also develop those close, personal relationships with the Japanese people. That’s what we value.

My children both graduated from high school in Japan, and I think that when we climbed Mt. Fuji together a few years ago in August, it really left a great impression on our family about Japan. We got to experience that together spiritually, and I really think it symbolizes a spiritual happiness and it also shows that we have the same feeling about Mt. Fuji as the Japanese people. And that makes us close. I climbed Mt. Fuji two times and I said “I don’t want to climb it again. It is too difficult!” But today, when I saw Mt. Fuji, I said “Ah, she (Mt. Fuji) is calling me back!” Maybe one more time…

Being responsible for approx. 50,000 service members and approx. another 50,000 family members in Japan, I realize that we would not be able to live and operate here without the good support from the local people around our bases. Plus, I also try to encourage our service members and families to get out of the base and meet their neighbors and learn about their culture. One of my goals here is to make Japan one of the top assignments for our service members and their families to come over here.

My first assignment I was a very young Major. So, I actually didn’t have a lot of interface with the ASDF or the Japanese people. I was the aide (to the USFJ and 5th Air Force Commander) here first and then at the flight squadron in Misawa. But as I became more senior, I had more interaction with Japanese people, Japanese government, and the SDF. Then I was pleased to see how dedicated they are to the mission. So, when I was young, I didn’t really have those close relationships with the Japanese here. That is why I encourage the young people now to make those relationships that maybe I missed early on (in my career).

We want to provide a secure environment for the next generation to grow up in. So, it is important to always do the right thing to provide for the future and for the young people. It is a very secure environment that we enjoy. It is not so safe and secure all around the world; there are some dangerous places here in Asia-Pacific. But as far as Japan, U.S., and our relationship go, it is no problem for young people to travel around and visit each other. And we need to maintain that (secure environment).

I think the fact that we are able to learn from each other shows the strength of the Japan–U.S. relationship and alliance. We did relief effort together in the island of Rota down during Cope North Guam (international exercise) and then also we worked side by side in the Philippine Relief Effort. In the SDF, it was called “Operation Sangkai,” which means “friend” in the Philippine language.

I think it is important to maintain a close relationship and coordination with each other. I think we are here at an exciting time for the Japan–U.S. Alliance. Last year, we had a historic Security Consultative Committee meeting where the Secretary of Defense came to visit Japan with our Secretary of State and met with Minister Kishida and Minister Onodera for the first time in Alliance history. They agreed to rewrite the Japan–U.S. Defense Guidelines by the end of this year. By rewriting those guidelines, we will be able to solidify some of the capabilities that we know we can do together and also recognize the changing security environment.

If I had a message for the young SDF personnel or the young U.S. personnel, I would say “Thank you for your volunteer service, and I think it is a very proud tradition and a very noble cause, serving for the security and the future of our young families”.

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