YOUNGSTOWN AIR RESERVE STATION, Ohio --
A propeller slowly turns, three more soon follow its lead. As the speed increases, so too does a constant whining sound. The whine transforms to a roar, changing the key of the mechanical melody. A C-130H Hercules prepares for takeoff.
Aboard the aircraft, the crewmembers run their checks. On each of their flight suits is a “Blue Tiger” 757th Airlift Squadron patch, but the flight commander is wearing it on his left, where the American flag would normally go. On his right shoulder is a 1st Tactical Airlift Wing patch.
Maj. Kazunori Takahara, a Japan Air-Self Defense Force C-130H pilot, has traveled more than 6,500 miles from Komaki, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, to Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio.
He is a participant in the Defense Personnel Exchange Program. The two-and-a-half-year program provides a system of mutual exchange of officers for duty within the two services.
“I was excited. I wanted to be an exchange officer,” said Takahara. “The U.S. and Japan’s alliance is getting more and more important, especially in the West Pacific Region, so this program is very important.”
DPEP is designed to nurture the bonds of friendship and understanding that exist between the two air forces through the exchange of ideas and tactics by the members of each service.
Takahara is the first exchange officer to be hosted by the 910th Operations Group and has been assigned to the 757th AS.
“They’re very friendly,” said Takahara. “I think the 910th Operations Group has very good teamwork. It’s a very good group and squadron. I like Youngstown Air Reserve Station, and I’m very happy to be here.”
Before Takahara could be an exchange officer, he had to pass an English proficiency test at the Defense Language Institute in Texas.
“America has more clear and precise communication skills with each other I think,” said Takahara. “Cause you have all the different cultures from other regions of the world. So you have to communicate with other people clearly and precisely, you have to use the right words in a conversation. I studied a lot.”
Afterward, Takahara went home to Japan for his final approvals and returned in April of 2019 to Little Rock Air Force Base, Arizona, where he spent approximately seven months learning flying procedures and the differences in the United States’ and Japan’s C-130H Hercules aircraft setups.
“It’s a little bit different setup,” said Takahara. “But it’s not a huge difference. I can learn ideas, tactics and operational management style as a crew member of the flight squadron. Of course, I can bring back the knowledge and experience to Japan, and then teach those to my coworkers.”
Takahara will be stationed at YARS working side-by-side with Reserve Citizen Airmen until October of 2021. The 910th AW did not have a pilot available to exchange, so the position was filled by an active-duty Air Force volunteer.