By Acting Sub-Lieutenant Nicole Murillo
They stepped off the aircraft to the sound of drums beating out a welcome and a message of peace.
Forty-one members of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) were welcomed to 19 Wing Comox, B.C. by Lieutenant-Colonel Mario Leblanc, commanding officer of 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron, squadron members, and the K’omoks First Nation Dancers.
The JMSDF visited Comox in late June as part of a trip to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Oak Harbor, Washington, U.S.A. Because 407 Squadron and the JMSDF carry out similar missions, including anti-submarine warfare and long-range patrols, the Japanese delegation requested a visit to 19 Wing. “We would like to enhance mutual understanding and friendship between not only the Canadian Air Force and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force, but also the Canadian people and the Japanese people,” said Commander Yasuharu Kimura, VP (Maritime Patrol) Detachment 44, JMSDF. On their second day, some of the JMSDF members flew a surveillance mission with officers from 407 Squadron so each unit could learn how the other uses their equipment and conducts missions. Other delegates visited the Regional Air Component Element Pacific in Victoria, B.C. to learn how the unit liaises with the Navy on Canada’s West Coast.
“It was definitely interesting for us to see the Japanese conduct a joint maritime surveillance mission with one of our crews. I’m sure that they benefitted from seeing how Canada conducts routine surveillance and helps our Navy to establish maritime domain awareness,” said Major Brian Erickson, 407 Squadron deputy commanding officer.
“Military exchanges between countries are always extremely valuable and [this exchange] certainly gave us greater insight into how [the Japanese] conduct their P-3C [maritime patrol aircraft] operations. I think that during their visit, bridges were definitely built between the two squadrons and a solid foundation has been laid for future cooperation,” he said.