13th FS pilot wins JAAGA award, fortifies Japanese-American relations

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class China M. Shock
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The Japan-American Air Force Goodwill Association (JAAGA) recognized U.S. Air Force Capt. Spencer “Boca” Rhoton, a 13th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, for his dedication to building a strong bond and partnership between Japan and the United States at Misawa Air Base, Japan, April 9.

The JAAGA is an annual award that honors the top Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and U.S. Air Force (USAF) members who best contribute to building U.S.-Japan partnerships.

Misawa AB personnel have the unique opportunity of interacting face-to-face with their local Japanese counterparts.

“Far and away, Rhoton has epitomized the bilateral relationship we seek to have with our JASDF partners during his three-year assignment at Misawa Air Base,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Jesse J. Friedel, the 35th Fighter Wing commander.

Rhoton demonstrated his integration with the JASDF in both his social and professional interaction.

“I’ve had the chance to participate and make friends in kendo clubs, religious groups, music groups and more recently the Misawa surf community,” Rhoton said. “American and Japanese culture are incredibly multifaceted, and each group has been given an awesome opportunity to interact with a slice of one another’s culture that we wouldn’t get to experience otherwise.”

His skill and eagerness to learn opened up many doors for him.

Rhoton was hand-selected to accompany the 13th FS on the recent six-jet Agile Combat Employment-style deployment to Chitose during 5th Air Force’s Exercise PACIFIC RONIN, and was named an Exercise “Superior Performer” by the 5th AF exercise team.

These opportunities capitalized on his ever-growing experience with both the Japanese culture, language and operational style, proving himself invaluable during the mission planning, ensuring all parties understood both USAF and JASDF tactics in order to integrate seamlessly into a unified fighting force.

“At every turn, professionally, socially and personally, Rhoton has gone out of his way to ensure that our partnership with the JASDF has been a positive and rewarding one,” Friedel said. “He is the epitome of a world-class officer whose efforts to strengthen our bilateral ties make him a clear-cut recipient of the JAAGA award.”

Rhoton felt honored and grateful for receiving such an award.

“I just want to express my gratitude to JAAGA and General Saito,” Rhoton expressed. “Japan is a wonderful host country and a critical ally. The good relationship we have between our forces is all thanks to the efforts of organizations like yours and people like you. Thank you.”