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Saturday, July 21, 2012
U.S. general exits feeling 3/11 left alliance stronger
By AYAKO MIE
Lt. Gen. Burton Field on Friday completed his duty as commander of United States Forces Japan, turning the post over to Lt. Gen. Salvatore Angelella.
Field led the forces at a time when Japan and the U.S. were trying to enhance the security alliance, including better coordination. Field said during the change of command ceremony at the Yokota air base in west Tokyo that "it took a crisis for all these to happen," referring to the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear catastrophe.
In the wake of the March 11 disasters, Field was instrumental in running Operation Tomodachi, the major relief effort by the U.S. military. He praised the capability and devotion shown both by the U.S. military and the Self-Defense Forces.
"I cannot imagine that any disaster of this magnitude in the world could have been handled with such grace, dignity and strength," said Field, who also raised the presence of the U.S. military among Japanese by hosting Twitter conferences in which he directly answered questions from the public.
During his stint, the two forces improved their interoperational capability, highlighted by the relocation of the SDF's Air Defense Command from Fuchu to Yokota. Field said these efforts paid off in the handling of North Korea's missile launch in April. "The proof of that decision was immediately realized to prepare for the impending launch. Our cooperation has never been better," he said.
For Angelella, a former F-16 fighter pilot, this is his fifth assignment in Japan. He commanded the 13th Fighter Squadron at U.S. air base in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, from 2005 to 2007 and was vice commander of 5th Air Force and deputy commander of the 13th Air Force at Yokota from 2009 to 2010.
While both generals termed the Japan-U.S. alliance critical for Asia-Pacific stability, they acknowledged challenges remain. They did not touch on the long-stalled relocation of the Futenma base or deployment of the MV-22 Osprey there, both of which face stiff opposition in Okinawa.
"There is much work left to be done," Angelella said.