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US, Japan leaders gather for 2023 SEL Symposium

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Natalie Doan
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Over 60 members from the U.S. Armed Forces and Japan Self-Defense Forces gathered for the 2023 Senior Enlisted Leader Symposium on May 9, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, embracing this year's theme of “Innovative Joint Leaders.”

During his opening remarks, Chief Master Sgt. Wendell Snider, U.S. Forces Japan command senior enlisted leader, encouraged participants to learn from each other and reflect on what President Joe Biden has deemed a “decisive decade,” as the U.S. continues to face growing competition from China.

“We all understand that the security of the Indo-Pacific will be a key factor in this decisive decade,” said Snider. “So, what does that mean for us, as senior enlisted leaders in this room today? We can continue to improve our relationships and cooperation. We can continue to improve bilateral training and interoperability.”

Lt. Gen. Ricky Rupp, USFJ and Fifth Air Force commander, also spoke at the event, touching on how the war in Ukraine has prompted Japan to further invest in its military by increasing defense spending and publishing three strategic documents — the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, and the Defense Buildup Program.

“Japan is moving with speed,” said Rupp. “The threat from the Chinese is real and it's growing. We all need to be ready to move at the same speed to be able to implement all of these things.”

Throughout the 2023 SEL Symposium, attendees heard from respective commands and observed a landing zone safety officer demonstration, wherein they learned how Airmen are helping to land aircraft in austere or contingent environments.

They also participated in breakout sessions and team-building activities in an effort to strengthen the allied mindset between the U.S. and Japan.