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NEWS | Feb. 1, 2010

Alaska Air Guard trains Japanese pilots on air refueling

By Maj. Guy Hayes Alaska National Guard

KULIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Alaska - The Alaska Air National Guard trained two members from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) here Jan. 9-25 on air refueling operations.

Capt. Junichi "Mia" Takamiya and Capt. Yasutaka "Zono" Higashizono, both UH-60J pilots from Japan, received hands-on training during day and night air refueling missions on the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter.

"The first day of their training was centered on ground training," said Lt. Col. Thomas Bolin, commander of the 210th Rescue Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard's 176th Wing. "We built a syllabus to teach them the differences between the UH-60J and the HH-60, and then we focused on air refueling operations, procedures and techniques."

The second part of training focused on two-day and three-night air refueling missions. "Mia" and "Zono" flew on a two-hour air refueling track, following three different air refueling rendezvous procedures.

"We started out with two day flights and transitioned to three night flights with the JASDF members sitting in the co-pilot seat and watching us before taking over as pilot," said Bolin.

The Air National Guard has also recently trained two UH-60J pilots and two HC-130 pilots in helicopter air refueling at Moffett Federal Airfield in December and is working on deploying an HC-130 and crew from New York to Japan to provide additional training to the JASDF crews.

The training is part of the JASDF desire to purchase refueling pods for the C-130H. They are currently flying KC-767 Jet Tankers and the UH-60J, but don't have air refueling capability, limiting their ability to assist in long range rescue operations.

"Mia" and "Zono" will take their new learned skills back to Japan to train other JASDF UH-60J pilots on air refueling techniques.

"Mia" and "Zono" are both accomplished pilots and learned quickly from our 210th Rescue Squadron instructors, said Brig. Gen. Charles E. "Chuck" Foster, 176th Wing commander, Alaska Air National Guard. "We can be very proud of the 210th and 211th aircrews and the maintenance and other logistical support that made this happen, and all without disrupting the level of services we routinely provide to the state and nation."

"The Japan Air Self-Defense Force can never say thank you enough to all who made enormous efforts to make this unique helicopter air refueling training happen," said. Maj. Hiroshi "Kage" Kageura, Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. "In the very near future, our UH-60J will fly extended range and save lives by using the tactics, technique and procedures given by the Alaska Air National Guard."