JASDF leader presented with AF medal

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Oblivious to the fact he was about to be bestowed a sought out Air Force medal, Japan Air Self-Defense Force Col. Shunichi Araki sat with 35th Fighter Wing and Northern Air Defense Force leadership during what he thought was a routine commander’s call.

Araki, the Northern Aircraft Control and Warning Wing vice commander, with a hot cup of tea grasped between his fingertips, watched as another JASDF member appeared with a tray. With no initial explanation, Araki stood after he was gestured.

Surprised, Araki realized the words of praise and admiration trailing from Col. Travis Rex, the 35th FW vice commander, were about him.

His face lit up in shock and a smile instantly appeared while a decoration announcement for a U.S. Air Force Commendation Medal was read, July 27, highlighting the accomplishments Araki completed during his tenure at Yokota Air Base, Japan, as Operations Support Wing, Air Defense Command vice commander.

“Col. Araki was forward thinking and helped strengthen the bond between the AF and JASDF,” said Col. Scott Maskery, former 374th Mission Support Group commander. “He was very professional and had a breadth and depth of experience and a leadership style that helped put the mission first with an emphasis on making sure his Airmen, along with our 374th MSG Airmen, had the opportunity, tools and training necessary to complete their assigned duties.”

During his time in Tokyo, he led the Yokota Friendship Festival, which is the largest bilateral operation to date. The event required coordination for security measures, medical assistance, public affairs and command and control supporting more than 185,000 personnel.

Additionally, his actions during KEEN EDGE were extraordinary and he continued his dedication to improve bilateral partnerships on a personal and professional level.

“He deeply cares for his family,” said Maskery. “This connection with his family reflects on his Airmen, whether he is leading them or working alongside them.”

After the presentation, Araki glanced down at the medal on his chest and his eyes widened as the shock continued spreading through his body.

“I was so surprised by this gesture,” Araki said. “I am very honored--not only for myself, but for my team I worked very closely with in Yokota. This award is a result of hard work and successful unification of both our countries and I am very happy to receive it.”

Araki is stationed at Misawa for another year and looks forward to further enhancing friendships among 35th FW Airmen and their JASDF partners.

“We appreciate all the support Col. Araki contributes to our wing,” Rex concluded. “He accomplished great things at Yokota AB and has been accomplishing great things here. I look forward to our teams working together during his remaining time at Misawa.”