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CAMP KENGUN, KUMAMOTO, Japan — The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force welcomed the first III Marine Expeditionary Force liaison officer at Camp Kengun July 31.
Capt. Paul Bartok, the III MEF LNO to the JGSDF, believes the new position will positively impact the Corps’ relationship with the JGSDF.
“I think this opportunity is only going to strengthen the alliance between the U.S. and Japan,” said Bartok. “Adding a personal touch to everything and having someone that speaks the language always puts a better face on the Marine Corps.”
Bartok has been trained as a foreign area officer for Japan, received a master’s degree in national security studies, and has spent 2 1/2 years studying Japanese.
“I will be working for III MEF and the JGSDF as the connection between the two services,” said Bartok. “I will coordinate training, filter information, and be a face for the Marine Corps.”
Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck Jr., the commanding general of III MEF, escorted Bartok to the JGSDF’s Western Army headquarters where there was a welcoming ceremony and a brief about future training opportunities.
“I thought it was very important that I brought Bartok here personally and introduced him to the headquarters because this is a significant occassion,” said Glueck.
There is a Marine with Marine Forces Pacific attached to the Ground Staff Office in Tokyo, but Bartok will be the first Marine to serve as an LNO to the JGSDF.
“This is very humbling,” said Bartok. “I’m excited because this is something I have trained for. To be asked to use your skills to do something this important is always a great opportunity.”
The new billet will benefit both the Marine Corps and the JGSDF, according to Bartok.
“For the Marine Corps, this will build relationships at a personal level with the Western Army,” said Bartok. “We have done a lot of training with the JGSDF, now the coordination will be more in depth. They have (a) liaison with us (on Okinawa), but we have never had a liaison with them.
“Having a Marine liaison will also help smooth out coordination for training,” said Bartok. “Also, for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, it will help immensely,” he added. “If there were to be a natural disaster in the Western Army’s area of operation, the Marine Corps would have a voice to start coordinating and getting information on (the exact requirements).”
Both the Marine Corps and the Western Army are very optimistic about the future, according to Bartok.
“The level of cooperation between us is very high, and we would like to maintain that between the U.S. and the Western Army,” said Lt. Gen. Toshihiro Miyashita, the assistant commanding general for the Western Army. “We hope this will lead to more bilateral training.”
The relationship created during the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and Operation Tomadachi has carried on, and both countries look forward to seeing the relationship grow stronger, according to Glueck.
“I hope to create a lot of engagement opportunities and give Marines more chances to work with the JGSDF,” said Bartok. “I would also like to help the JGSDF with whatever they would like from the Marine Corps.”