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JAAGA award-winning Airman fortifies Japanese-American relations

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sadie Colbert
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Approximately 2,300 enlisted service members live at Misawa Air Base with an opportunity to interact face-to-face with their local Japanese neighbors.

On March 6, The Japan-American Air Force Goodwill Association recognized Airman 1st Class William Raley, a 610th Air Control Flight weapons director technician, who dedicated his time to build bonds and partnerships with Japanese nationals.

“I want to thank these Airmen for their contribution to JAAGA and our wing,” said Col. Kristopher W. Struve, the 35th Fighter Wing commander. “Misawa AB is the best example of the Japan-U.S. alliance. Thanks to organizations, like JAAGA, who make us better friends as well as partners.”

Starting with a desire to be a well-rounded Airman, the Nevada, Iowa native, dedicated a lot of time investing in his partners around him, getting to where he is now.

“I’ve always liked helping out people,” said Raley. “I just thought, ‘why not take the extra step?’ to really adopt the whole-Airman concept, so I started getting out, volunteering, taking school and did my best to be physically healthy.”

Raley added volunteering put his foot in the right door to be a nominee for the JAAGA award.

“One of the main things I do here is conduct four English classes with the Misawa International Center and any units dealing with command and control,” Raley explained.

Raley said both on and off base classes range anywhere from six to 14 people at one time.

“Many off-base Japanese speakers do not have talking opportunities with English-speakers, which I believe is a crucial part of learning,” Raley said. “Having them speak face-to-face gets them out of their comfort zone and helps everyone get accustomed to discussing different topics, expanding each other’s vocabulary.”

One of his students, JASDF Capt. Yasutaka Shimizu, a 601st Squadron, Airspace Warning Control Wing operator, said there’s a language barrier between the 601st SQ and 610th ACF.

“The 601st SQ and the 610th ACF have a great relationship, and we constantly work together,” said Shimizu. “Having the English class helps break down the language barrier, enabling both units to work more cohesively.”

Raley said he took the time to make friends with JASDF members and eventually pushed himself to interact with the Misawa City community by talking with the locals.

“I’m stationed in Japan and I’m going to take advantage of the time I have here,” Raley stated. “I like getting to know people, their culture and their lifestyle. Even when I’m not volunteering, I’m hanging out with the Japanese friends I’ve made.”

Raley offered some advice for those interested in the JAAGA award by highlighting the many volunteer opportunities, like the Misawa Special Olympics, for Airmen to participate in and network with their Japanese counterparts.

“Get into contact with the right people, talk with your JADSF counterparts and get your face out there,” Raley said. “The local community really appreciated what I was willing to do for them and I’m grateful they let me teach English and be a part of the MIC. They recognized my efforts as a way of thanking me.”

Misawa AB houses many Airmen, like Raley, who invest in the local community, and it’s those service members who continue to make the Japan-U.S. alliance the best it can be.