Camp Zama Co-Op Offers Japanese Soldiers Tour of USS Stethem
YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- A group of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) soldiers from various regions visited Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) for a tour of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile cruiser USS Stethem (DDG 63) Aug. 12.

The soldiers are part of a cooperative work program that blends a group of Japanese service members into select U.S. Army commands at Camp Zama to practice English and learn about U.S. military structure.

The U.S. Army and JGSDF have been running the co-op program for more than 16 years adding credence to the strong and successful bilateral relationships between Japan and the U.S.

The JGSDF visit to CFAY and Stethem is one that the soldiers have been looking forward to, as shipboard life is not something they experience in the Army.

"We are soldiers, not Sailors, so this was very interesting," said JGSDF Sgt. Osamu Hirai, 1st Infantry Regiment, Tokyo. "I had a great time learning about the day-to-day operations and life aboard a U.S. Navy ship. I can't wait to tell my fellow soldiers and my parents about my trip today," he said.

The tour group visited and learned about the ship's vertical launching system and shipboard guns, the pilot house and navigation tools and the combat information center.

"To see the brain of the ship, the combat information center, was my favorite part," said Hirai. "To see first-hand the techniques and communication and warfare capabilities of the ship was a unique opportunity."

According to Sgt. 1st Class Eric Rodriguez, the non-commissioned officer in charge of Camp Zama's host nation relations, the group spends 72 days embedded in an American unit; sponsored by a U.S. Soldier.

"They spend the entire 72 days learning about our culture and the different aspects of the U.S. Army," said Rodriguez. "They also get to visit the bases of different branches like Yokosuka, Yokota Air Base and Naval Air Facility Atsugi. The really get an insight as to how we all work together."
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