Unbridled Service in Japan

Story by Spc. Brandy Mort, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Kentucky National Guard

Members of the Yama Sakura 61's Public Affairs Office tell the stories of the personnel associated with the exercise. Members include: Mr. Hideo Kawada, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Oliver, Maj. Randall Baucom, Spc. Josh Bennett, Airman 1st Class Laura Yahemiak, Staff Sgt. Fredrick Varney, Spc. Brandy Mort and Staff Sgt. Rebecca Wood. (Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Bell)

OSAKA, Japan – What started off as a whirlwind of a mission evolved into a great working and learning experience for the 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment as they embarked on a mission to Camp Itami located on the outskirts of Osaka, Japan.

Members of the Kentucky National Guard’s 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment provided direct public affairs support to the Yama Sakura 61 exercise at Camp Itami from Jan. 23- Feb. 3.

The members selected to participate coined the nickname, the Japan 5. The Japan 5 included Sgt. 1st Class Michael Oliver, acting 1st Sgt, broadcast journalists Staff Sgt. Rebecca Wood and Spc. Josh Bennett, and print journalists Staff Sgt. Fredrick Varney and I, Spc. Brandy Mort.

For one member of the Japan 5 team it was a second chance to visit home.

“I was extremely excited to hear about our Japan mission,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Oliver, “It gave me an opportunity to come back to my birthplace. “

The Japan 5 began their trip by flying out of Louisville, Ky. International Airport.  An unexpected tornado in Louisville delayed all flight schedules forcing the team to spend the night in Chicago.

After spending the night in “The Windy City”, the team finally boarded a plane headed for Tokyo.  Fifteen hours later the team reached Camp Itami, Japan.

With droopy eyes and a serious case of jet-lag, team members managed to sit through a briefing conducted by the in-processing staff at Camp Itami.

Maj. Randall Baucom, Chief of Public Affairs U.S. Army Japan, introduced himself as the Yama Sakura 61 exercise Public Affairs Officer and gave the team the overall mission objective, guidelines and procedures.

The very next day after the arrival the Japan 5 got the ball rolling with their mission. Their mission was to provide direct Public Affairs support for the Yama Sakura 61 exercise.

Spc. Josh Bennett, Broadcast Journalist with the 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, reviews the footage he shot during the Morale Welfare and Recreation trips offered during Yama Sakura 61 in Osaka, Japan, Jan. 28. (Photo By Spc. Brandy Mort, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Yama Sakura is a bi-annual, bilateral computer simulated command post exercise designed to strengthen military operations and ties between the U.S. Army and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.

Since most of the Japan 5 team are traditional Guard members, Yama Sakura gave them an opportunity to work in an active Public Affairs Office.

“This mission has helped me work under pressure and produce products with a quick turn-around,” said Spc. Josh Bennett.  “That’s something I wasn’t used to before coming to Japan.”

During their mission the Japan 5 produced 19 news stories.  This includes nine news articles and 10 video productions.

Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht, director of public affairs, KYNG, also utilized the MPAD while in Osaka to create a short video on behalf of the National Guard Bureau, showcasing the vitality and relevance of the National Guard as a whole.

“We’ve interviewed nine different Guard units from as many states who are assisting the Japanese Defense Forces in this international exercise,” Hilbrecht said. “It only makes sense that America’s homeland defense force, the National Guard, help our allies in their homeland security scenarios–nature-made and otherwise.”

The overall mission proved to be a success for the Japan 5 team.

“MPADs, I have found, come in all shapes and sizes,” said Baucom, “The 133rd is one of the top two National Guard MPADs I have worked with in the 9 years as a Public Affairs Officer.”

“I’m very proud of the job accomplished by the 133rd MPAD during Yama Sakura 61,” said Staff Sgt. Fredrick Varney, print journalist for the 133rd MPAD, “ We have represented the unit, the state, and the Kentucky National Guard well.”

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