JASDF Chief of Staff visits Columbus AFB Published Dec. 5, 2014 By Senior Airman Stephanie Englar 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- The Japan Air Self-Defense Force chief of staff toured Columbus Air Force Base Dec. 1-2 to check in on the pilot training program and boost morale. Gen. Harukazu Saitoh expressed his gratitude to Columbus AFB and the U.S. Air Force for welcoming the JASDF pilot students into the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) course. "Two hundred and fifteen JASDF pilots have completed their training (with) the U.S. Air Force so far," Saitoh said. "Some of them were promoted to major generals this year, and are now wing commanders. Others are playing active parts in various fields as commanders or staff members of command headquarters, who constitute the core of the U.S.-Japan bilateral operations. Thus, I believe that our training (of) pilots in the U.S. is very important for the JASDF." During his visit, Saitoh met with the 10 JASDF students currently in training and said he is sure the students will play an active part in their units when they return to Japan. "(Columbus AFB) is one of the best places for flight training," he said. "The extensive training range rather close to Columbus AFB enables the U.S. Air Force to train pilots quite effectively, and its three runways allow them to respond to unexpected situations flexibly." Saitoh said the U.S.-Japan security arrangements are a cornerstone of Japan's security. "Japan is now working on building up and enhancing its cooperative relationship with the U.S. in a wide range of domains, including education and personnel exchanges," Saitoh said. "The JASDF members who completed pilot training in the U.S. have a good understanding of the U.S. Air Force operations as well as flight techniques. They can plan and coordinate various programs based on their knowledge of operations both in the U.S. and Japan. As a result, they contribute to efficiently improving the U.S.-Japan interoperability." Saitoh said he was very happy to have the opportunity to take a firsthand look at the training the pilots were going through. "I would like to express my sincere gratitude to … the men and women of Columbus AFB for giving us such a warm welcome and (for) the great support in making this visit happen," he said. The JASDF's pilot training with the Air Force began in 1991. At first, the students only took the UPT course but later on took both the SUPT course as well as the Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals course.