Exchange officer builds trust with partner nation aircrew during Operation Christmas Drop

  • Published
  • By Yasuo Osakabe
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The U.S. Air Force organizes and trains select Air Force officers to be language-enabled, culturally aware, and operationally relevant experts. U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Lucas Crouch, Japan Self-Defense Force exchange officer, has worked as a special liaison between U.S. and Japanese air forces during Operation Christmas Drop, the Defense Department’s longest-running humanitarian airlift mission based at Andersen Air Force Base.
As a Japanese speaker, interpreter and liaison, Crouch has been a key resource in facilitating operations during OCD’s 71st iteration this year, providing a valuable connection between two participating nations.
“I am humbled to serve in this role as a link between U.S. and Japanese participants during Operation Christmas Drop,” Crouch said. “I think this event is a great opportunity to improve interoperability because even though we may speak different languages, we are using common terminology together.”
During one day of OCD operations, Crouch supported Japanese crewmembers from the JASDF’s 401st Tactical Airlift Squadron, Komaki Air Base, Japan. Crouch accompanied a C-130H Hercules crew whose aircraft lifted off from Andersen AFB and delivered humanitarian aid to island communities in the Southeastern Pacific.

U.S. Air Force officer builds trust with partner nation aircrew during Operation Christmas Drop
U.S. Air Force Officer Builds Trust with Partner Nation Aircrew during Operation Christmas Drop
Senior Airman Janealle Hogans and Master Sgt. Luke McLimans, 36th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-130J loadmasters, wave to island community members on Fananu atoll in the state of Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia

During the flight, Crouch was offered the privilege to fly the JASDF aircraft. Using his flying experience and cultural skills, Crouch was able to advise and mentor Japan Air Self-Defense Force pilot, 2nd Lt. Senichiro Kawakami, who was once Crouch’s student.

“I am always comfortable flying with Lt. Col. Crouch,” Kawakami said. “This is first time I have participated in OCD, and Lt. Col. Crouch provided some of the support I needed as a new copilot. We have always appreciated what he provides, and we are happy to have him flying with us and providing the necessary support.”
Crouch emphasizes that OCD 2022 is a great opportunity to work with the JASDF while meeting a critical mission.
“This is how Operation Christmas Drop 2022 shows interoperability between Japan and the U.S.,” Crouch said. “It’s a great mission because we are training for future humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations while being able to help people and working closely with our partners.”
Since 2018, Crouch has worked closely with Japanese aircrew as a JASDF exchange officer. This is his eighth time participating in Operation Christmas Drop. His first OCD was in 2006, when he was a new copilot assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, the unit that continues to lead operations for Operation Christmas Drop.
Crouch is happy to be a part of OCD 2022, and says he continues to look forward to this event both based on his prior experiences participating and his current role seeing Japanese forces up close.
“OCD is not a new concept for the JASDF anymore,” Crouch said. “The Japanese can act as a force multiplier for this mission and others, and I continue to enjoy working with them, especially for missions like this.”
Related Story 36th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron Members Honor Fallen Airman during Operation Christmas Drop