U.S. Commander in Japan: Alliance Strong, With Room to Grow
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
TOKYO, July 25, 2012 Air Force Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella spent much of his second day as commander of U.S. Forces Japan with one of his bosses: the Pentagon’s second-highest official, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter.
Carter visited Japan last week as part of a 10-day Asia-Pacific tour that continues through tomorrow. Angelella, who has served five previous assignments over six years in Japan during his career, said the deputy secretary’s visit was an example of the strategic importance the United States places on the country and the region.
U.S. military leaders in Japan have a perspective on what the nation’s objectives are in the Asia-Pacific region and what the increased U.S. strategic emphasis there involves, Angelella said in an email interview with American Forces Press Service.
“But having an opportunity to ask and discuss face-to-face allows us to fully appreciate the Defense Department's objectives,” he added. Carter's visit, he said, “ensures our critical work and cooperation with Japan is on track.”
That synchronization is especially important in Japan, he noted, as the nation is a “cornerstone” ally of the United States.
“I also appreciated him taking time to meet some of the outstanding service members we have serving in Japan; they are the ones executing the mission day in and day out, and his visit to them shows them their efforts here in Japan are not taken for granted,” the general said. Carter spoke with sailors on the 7th Fleet command ship, the USS Blue Ridge, during his visit.
Angelella, who is the senior commander for the roughly 40,000 U.S. service members and civilian employees in Japan, noted that the U.S.-Japan alliance, while very strong, still has room to grow.
“Even the greatest of teams have to continually evaluate where they are and where they want to be in the future,” he said. “So, there is still much work to do in jointly increasing cooperation between our nations.”
Two areas he intends to focus on, the general said, are building up the program of U.S.-Japan exercises and further enhancing information sharing.
“The recovery efforts from the Great East Japan Earthquake and, more recently, preparing for the North Korean missile launch demonstrated what we can do together already, but we did learn lessons on areas we could improve,” the general said. “Through exercises and information exchange, we can become even better.”
Angelella said he’s looking forward to building on and moving forward the “outstanding work” that his predecessor, Air Force Lt. Gen. Burt Field, did leading U.S. Forces Japan.
“I welcome this opportunity to once again serve alongside our [Japan Self Defense Forces] partners and friends as we lead this alliance into the next 50 years,” the general said.