First transpacific flight creates Washington, Misawa bond

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- For more than 85 years Misawa City, Japan, and two U.S. sister-cities from Wenatchee Valley, Washington, share an enviable bond initiated by the first non-stop transpacific flight completed by Miss Veedol and her crew of two on Oct. 5, 1931.

Ever since the ground-breaking flight, the sister-cities continued building partnerships and enhancing community relations, eventually establishing annual goodwill delegation visits from the cities of Wenatchee in 1981 and East Wenatchee in 2001. Misawa City officials and student ambassadors visit Wenatchee Valley every April and the Americans travel here in August.

This year’s Wenatchee Valley delegation visits Misawa City Aug. 22 through 27. Misawa City leaders greeted the Americans introducing them to their Japanese host families Tuesday, Aug. 22. The continued their visit Wednesday with a trip to a local school, Miss Veedol beach, a Mini Japan Day with kimono fitting, tea ceremony, Japanese harp playing and sushi roll making, and finished the day with a special ceremony and garden party at the mayor’s home.

Thursday, Aug. 24, kicked off with harvesting Misawa burdock and a visit to Misawa Air Base where 35th Fighter Wing Airmen shared their passion for the community and missions associated with the wing’s F-16 Fighting Falcon.

“It’s awesome they came here traveling some 2,000 miles and viewed our mission,” said Senior Airman Robert Carter, a 35th Maintenance Group weapons lead crew member. “It was interesting to see how they react to our weapons systems and what we load on F-16s.”

Along with the 35th MXG weapons loaders, the delegates talked with 35th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technicians, a 13th Fighter Squadron pilot and the 35th Fighter Wing’s vice commander, Col. Paul Kirmis.

“Our friendship with Japan is incredibly important and having the opportunity to share unity with the American citizens we signed up to protect is a phenomenal community outreach activity,” the colonel explained. “Through participating in activities like these with our Misawa City counterparts, we’re able to continue strengthening relations with our allies and friends in Japan.”

At each of the various stations, the delegates asked questions ranging from equipment capabilities to cost effectiveness of taxpayer dollars.

“It’s great to share with our tax payers a tangible asset their money paid for,” Kirmis continued. “Without their trust and support, we’d have no mission and no reason to even be here in Japan; so I’m excited we had the chance to interact and share with them the 35th Fighter Wing’s mission.”

Smiles and wide eyes decorated the delegates’ faces as their hosts talked about the ever expanding mission requirements across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

“I never really thought of what the base would be like because I’ve never been to a base before,” explained Amy Sand, a Wenatchee Valley delegation member. “Stepping onto the base today and seeing what you guys do, really makes me appreciate you guys more and really all of our branches because you guys just do so much for us.”

Witnessing the close relationship between the base and Misawa City, Sand expressed a deep debt of gratitude to the Japanese people and the U.S. service members who shared their time with her and the delegates.

“The whole experience has been just really cool,” she said. “Thank you so much for everything you do every day, we really appreciate your service and sacrifice—you mean so much.”

Sand along with the rest of the Wenatchee delegates continue their cultural immersion throughout the weekend departing for Tokyo and then home on Sunday, Aug. 27.