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Japanese Surgeon General visits Travis

Gen. Shinya Bekku and Gen. Robert Marks pore over a pamphlet of documents. Various other military members look on.

Japan Air Self-Defense Force Maj. Gen. Shinya Bekku, JASDF surgeon general, left, speaks with U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Marks, Air Mobility Command Surgeon and Chief of the Air Force Nurse Corps, Dec. 9, 2019, at Travis Air Force Base, California. Bekku’s visit to Travis included a tour of the base’s future home of the 60th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron as well as various sections within David Grant USAF Medical Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Conrad)

Three military personnel, two in dress uniform and one in combat uniform, are inside a pressurized tank apparatus

Japan Air Self-Defense Force Maj. Gen. Shinya Bekku, JASDF surgeon general, left, and JASDF Capt. Shin Tadokoro, Bekku’s aide-de-camp, tour David Grant USAF Medical Center’s hyperbaric chamber alongside U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kylynn Bevis, 60th Surgical Operations Squadron hyperbaric technician, Dec. 9, 2019, at Travis Air Force Base, California. Bekku’s visit to Travis included a tour of the base’s future home of the 60th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron as well as various sections within DGMC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Conrad)

The sleeve of a military person's combat uniform has the squadron patch of the 349th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron on it. Its motto, "Excellence in Care," is emblazoned at the top.

An Airman assigned to the 349th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron demonstrates AE protocol to Japan Air Self-Defense Force Maj. Gen. Shinya Bekku, JASDF surgeon general, Dec. 9, 2019, at Travis Air Force Base, California. Bekku’s visit to Travis included a tour of the base’s future home of the 60th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron as well as various sections within David Grant USAF Medical Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Conrad)

A group of military personnel in hard hats are silhouetted against the brightly lit room in front of them with a map of the world on the wall

A group including Japan Air Self-Defense Force Maj. Gen. Shinya Bekku, JASDF surgeon general, and U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Marks, Air Mobility Command Surgeon and Chief of the Air Force Nurse Corps, tour the building slated to eventually house the 349th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron Dec. 9, 2019, at Travis Air Force Base, California. Bekku’s visit to Travis included a tour of the base’s future home of the 60th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron as well as various sections within David Grant USAF Medical Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Conrad)

Gen. Shinya Bekku, the Japanese Surgeon General, sits on a bus and laughs with a Travis Airman in a combat uniform.

Japan Air Self-Defense Force Maj. Gen. Shinya Bekku, JASDF surgeon general, right, speaks with U.S. Air Force Maj. Parawee Euavijitearoon, 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron officer, Dec. 9, 2019, at Travis Air Force Base, California. Bekku’s visit to Travis included a tour of the base’s future home of the 60th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron as well as various sections within David Grant USAF Medical Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Conrad)

Two military personnel, one in dress blues and one in combat dress, walk down a long, brightly-lit hallway followed by a gaggle of other personnel

Japan Air Self-Defense Force Maj. Gen. Shinya Bekku, JASDF surgeon general, left, and U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael Bringas, 15th Medical Operations Squadron clinical nurse manager, tour David Grant USAF Medical Center Dec. 9, 2019, at Travis Air Force Base, California. Bekku’s visit to Travis included a tour of the base’s future home of the 60th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron as well as various sections within DGMC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Conrad)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – All the bells and whistles of the U.S. west coast mobility mission were on full display during a visit from Japanese Maj. Gen. Shinya Bekku, Japanese Air Self-Defense Force Surgeon General, Dec. 9, 2019, at Travis Air Force Base, California.

The visit, which coincided with a visit from U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Marks, Air Mobility Command Surgeon and Chief of the Air Force Nurse Corps, put an emphasis on the inner workings of Travis’ 349th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

The 349th AES specializes in airlift evacuation of sick and injured medical patients from specifically austere environments, translating Travis’ vision of being “America’s finest mobility force” from a generally understood perspective of transporting “boots and bullets” to one of transporting “bandages and hope.”

For 349th AES Airmen, it’s a distinction that lies less in the capabilities of Travis’ mobility platforms like the C-17 Globemaster III and the C-5M Super Galaxy and more in the flexibility and ingenuity of AES Airmen.

“When any of my people deploy, I give them a Gumby figure to remind them to be flexible and creative in making sure their patients receive the best care possible and aren’t further injured during transport,” said Col. Jeanne LaFountain, former 349th AES commander.

Bekku’s realm of care, not dissimilar to the United States’, encompasses not just his nation’s immediate population, but those members of the Japanese Forces deployed to areas around the world.

Since 1992, Japan has continually deployed forces around the globe in support of United Nations interests, according to ForeignPolicy.com.

Bekku said Japan’s continued involvement in U.N. prerogatives requires a heightened need for not only international cooperation, but also an innovative mindset—something Travis, with its Phoenix Spark innovation think tank, is uniquely positioned to inspire.

“Sharing knowledge and experiences with one another is very important for building relationships and developing an innovative mindset,” Bekku said.  “Innovation is very important throughout all areas of military operations, including training. It’s a mechanism for us to change our thinking in order to solve regional challenges.”

Marks, likewise, echoed the importance of joint-nation collaboration in both engaging international conflicts and ensuring best practices are followed in the carrying out of humanitarian and combat missions alike.

“It’s about pulling the best from both forces,” Marks said. “It’s in that way, we can make the whole system better. There are certainly aspects of both our nations’ initiatives that can be learned from, and perhaps expanded upon, by the other. From a medical viewpoint, there’s always the question of ‘how do we fly together better, how do we take care of each other’s patients better?’ Visits like the one today opens those avenues for becoming a more effective transnational alliance.”

Bekku finished his visit with gratitude toward his hosts as well as a sentiment underscoring the importance of such visits and the need to reinforce the alliance stoked and nurtured by the base tour:

“We are stronger together,” he said.

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