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Interservice Cooperation on Okinawa Impresses Top NCO

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

TORII STATION, Japan, April 12, 2007 – On the second day of a visit to Okinawa, the U.S. military’s top enlisted servicemember today expressed his pleasure that the services seem to be working together better than he could have imagined a decade ago.

Having spent the morning with Navy sailors and yesterday with Air Force and Army personnel on the island, Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited an example while here for briefings on Army operations on Okinawa.

The Army’s 58th Signal Battalion manages the Joint Warfighter Interbase Telecommunications Network on Okinawa, providing connectivity among 18 locations for all U.S. military services on the island, as well as providing communications for Japanese SelfDefense Forces.

Discussion during the briefing turned to a tsunami-related disruption of communication from Navy ships to Navy aircraft. The problem was overcome thanks to an effort attributed by enlisted leaders in the meeting to a sense of partnership in a close inter-service working relationship. The same spirit came through during a briefing about the Army’s 505th Quartermaster Battalion, which provides bulk fuel to all Defense Department activities on Okinawa.

“Let me tell you something. Fifteen years ago, that would not have happened,” Gainey said. “You would not have a Navy master chief taking about an Army sergeant major as a partner in the mission. It would have been ‘us’ and ‘them,’” he said.

Throughout the visit, servicemembers have asked Gainey whether the trend toward joint training and operations will continue. He answers the question by having the servicemembers put a hand over the name of their service embroidered on a fabric tape above the shirt pocket.

“When you cover the name of your service, what’s left?” he asks the servicemembers. “U.S. -- that’s us. That’s what it needs to be about now.”

Servicemembers need to “care enough to care” and take time to learn other services’ cultures and standards, he said here today. He added that he’s encouraged by discussions during his visit that “are about how we serve each other, not how we serve ourselves.”

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Biographies:
Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, USA

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