KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Marines from the 9th Engineer Support Battalion at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, are participating in a six-month field exchange program here with Airmen from the 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron.
The idea for the program hatched from a conversation between Master Sgt. Jason Bowman, the 18th LRS fuel operations section chief, and Gunnery Sgt. Damian Sinanon, the 9th ESB, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, Bulk Fuel Company first sergeant last year.
"I attended the advanced course at Camp Hansen and when I was in the academy I met Marines that did my job," said Bowman. "I met a gunnery sergeant and we started talking about the different opportunities each branch has and he told me 'My guys never get to work with aircraft, do you think we could bring them down there to train?' and it just kind of took off."
The training program is designed to familiarize Marines with an aspect of their job they wouldn’t normally encounter, all while working in a joint environment. To facilitate this, the five Marines participating in the program, are embedded with the 18th LRS. They even stay in the same dorms with their Air Force peers and eat meals with them in the dining facility.
"We're training with the Air Force to see what they do here," said Cpl. Daniel Ramirez, a bulk fuel specialist. "Back at (Camp) Hansen, we're more of a ground-support unit, so I've never seen anything like this."
The six-month program gives Marines 4,800 hours of training, rotating them between distribution, fuels hydrants, fuels laboratory and cryogenics training.
The participating Marines aren't the only ones benefiting from the training program. The Airmen they train with, as well as Air Force and Marine Corps leadership, are gaining valuable experience that can be applied to future joint efforts.
"Having this opportunity to experience what our Marine partners do and vice versa is absolutely critical to the future of the military," said Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Janssen, the 18th LRS fuels manager. "We're going to continue to push more toward a joint environment as we grow as a force and I think this is very, very important."
Boasting the largest refueling fleet and operational cryogenics production plant in the Air Force, the 18th LRS Fuels Management Flight was the winner of the 2014 Raymond H. Gross award for Best Fuels Management Operation in the Pacific Air Forces, making it one of the best locations for these Marines to learn new aspects of their job.
"The way we currently deploy, and the state of operations that we have overseas, means there's no longer just an Air Force base or a Marine Corps base," Bowman said. "The fact that our Airmen and these Marines are able to work together here is going to make them more proficient at working together in a wartime scenario."
Once the Marines complete the training, they'll be expected to pass their new knowledge on to their peers with the ultimate goal of being able to perform both aircraft and ground refueling procedures.
"As soon as they get back to (Camp) Hansen they're going to be much more knowledgeable on fuel handling procedures," Bowman said. "When they're tasked to deploy in support of hurricane relief or a wartime mission they're going to be able to fill a multitude of positions for the Marine Corps."
So far, the program has proven to be invaluable, providing professional development while giving Marines and Airmen the opportunity to build camaraderie through training together.
"We've brought them in and made them part of the family we have here," Janssen said. "We certainly look forward to having them here and making us better."