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Japan’s top enlisted attend SNCO Academy leadership course

9 Feb 2014 | Cpl. Lena Wakayama

CAMP HANSEN, Japan - Warrant Officer Yoshiaki Suzuki, the sergeant major of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, and eight other top enlisted soldiers, including command sergeants major from units throughout the JGSDF participated in the Japan Observer Exchange Program Jan. 21-24 at the Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy on Camp Hansen.

“The senior enlisted of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force have an interest in how we develop, shape and mold our enlisted Marines into enlisted leaders,” said Sgt. Maj. Anthony Cruz Jr., the director of SNCOA, Okinawa. “We put together a leadership package to instruct and train them (how the Corps teaches its enlisted Marines).”

This is part of a larger effort to strengthen cooperation between SNCOA Okinawa and the JGSDF in order to enhance the combined efforts between the U.S. and Japan.

This is the first time the SNCOA has presented a syllabus like this to the JGSDF, according to Cruz. The training will now take place annually, and it will be briefed to the commandant of the Marine Corps, who has expressed his interest.

“We have two academic days planned, and we also have two administrative days,” said Staff Sgt. Andy Hurt, the faculty development coordinator with SNCOA Okinawa. “We present a curriculum here that’s based off contemporary leadership topics that we put together with (the JGSDF’s) input and feedback from other evolutions like this.”

The topics ranged from the Marine Corps’ enlisted education to value-based leadership and even combat fitness. The instructors informed the sergeants major on how the Marine Corps approached various leadership matters, and in turn asked how they would approach each of those situations using slides, demonstrations, group activities and discussions.

“We were able to see the difference in how the Japanese and Marines handle certain issues, as well as some of the ideologies that the Marines have,” said Suzuki. “It was great to see how much enthusiasm and confidence our instructors had in teaching us.”

The program was not just an opportunity for the JGSDF to develop, but for the Marine Corps to develop as well, according to Cruz.

 “I look at it as an opportunity to continue to build and nourish our relationship with the Japanese,” said Cruz.

Hurt and the other instructors emphasized that while conducting this course, it was important for them to maintain humility while sharing this leadership package with the JOEP participants.

“We’re not here to impose our will onto another service; it’s quite the contrary,” said Hurt, expressing how fortunate he and the other instructors felt, working with the JGSDF sergeants major. “That’s the best part of working with a foreign military – coming together and sharing points of view and strengthening what makes each service unique.”

Go to for video coverage of the event.

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