• U.S. soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division and Japanese soldiers from 16th Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Regimental Combat Team, 4th Division, stand in formation during the opening ceremony for Operation Rising Thunder Sept. 4 at Yakima Training Center, Wash. The forces stood together as they prepared to begin the annual monthlong training exercise. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the training partnership designed to improve the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and I Corps' and 7th Infantry Division's combat readiness as a combined joint task force.

    Operation Rising Thunder

    U.S. soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division and Japanese soldiers from 16th Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Regimental Combat Team, 4th Division, stand in formation during the...

  • Spc. Andrew Anthony, spotter, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, teaches Japanese snipers the way American snipers engage a target Sept. 5, at the Yakima Training Center, Wash. Both forces will exchange their knowledge of how they conduct sniper operations and will focus on target detection, reconnaissance techniques and cover and concealment. The combined training is part of Operation Rising Thunder 13, a three-week training exercise between soldiers from I Corps and the 16th RCT, designed to develop all war-fighting functions for both Japanese and U.S. forces.

    American and Japanese snipers come together to train

    Spc. Andrew Anthony, spotter, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, teaches Japanese snipers the way American snipers engage a target Sept. 5, at the Yakima Training Center, Wash. Both forces...

  • Soldiers assigned to B Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, practice clearing a room prior to maneuvering through the urban assault complex at Yakima Training Center, Wash., Sept. 6. The soldiers are taking part in Operation Rising Thunder 13 alongside members of the 16th Regimental Combat Team, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. It was a learning event for both forces, as the units took turns observing each other traverse the course. The three-week combined training event is designed to exercise and develop all war-fighting functions for both Japanese and U.S. forces.

    Operation Rising Thunder 13 urban assault course

    Soldiers assigned to B Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, practice clearing a room prior to maneuvering through the urban assault complex at Yakima Training Center, Wash., Sept. 6. The soldiers are taking part in Operation Rising Thunder...

  • U.S. Army Pfc. Adam Padilla, right, an infantryman with 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, chats and shares family photos with Japanese Sgt. Tomotsugu Sudu, a tank gunner with the 4th Tank Battalion, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, during a gunnery as part of Rising Thunder at the Yakima Training Center, Wash., Sept. 11, 2013. Rising Thunder is a U.S. Army-hosted exercise designed to build interoperability between I Corps, the 7th Infantry Division and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.  (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. David Chapman/Released)

    Rising Thunder 2013

    U.S. Army Pfc. Adam Padilla, right, an infantryman with 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, chats and shares family photos with Japanese Sgt. Tomotsugu Sudu, a tank gunner with the 4th Tank Battalion, Japan Ground...

  • U.S. Army 1st Lt. Christopher Goodwin, a fire support officer with Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and Japanese 1st Sgt. Teruhiko Tanaka, a forward observer sergeant with 16th Infantry Regiment, Heavy Mortar Company, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, determine the accuracy of the mortar teams firing 120 mm mortar rounds on a distant hillside during Rising Thunder at the Yakima Training Center, Wash., Sept. 12, 2013. Rising Thunder is a U.S. Army-hosted exercise designed to build interoperability between I Corps, the 7th Infantry Division and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.  (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. David Chapman/Released)

    Operation Rising Thunder, forward observer training

    U.S. Army 1st Lt. Christopher Goodwin, a fire support officer with Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and Japanese 1st Sgt. Teruhiko Tanaka, a forward observer sergeant with 16th Infantry Regiment...

  • U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mitchell Shaw, left, assigned to 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, evaluates Japanese Master Sgt. Kazunori Takao and snipers with the 16th Regimental Combat Team, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, as they bound across a road during a movement exercise as part of Rising Thunder at the Yakima Training Center, Wash., Sept. 14, 2013. Rising Thunder is a U.S. Army-hosted exercise designed to build interoperability between I Corps, the 7th Infantry Division and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.  (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. David Chapman/Released)

    US and Japanese snipers train together to be the best

    U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mitchell Shaw, left, assigned to 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, evaluates Japanese Master Sgt. Kazunori Takao and snipers with the 16th Regimental Combat Team, Japan Ground...

  • Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and U.S. Army Soldiers discuss their next move during a joint platoon exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Wash., Sept. 16, 2013. Rising Thunder is a U.S. Army-hosted exercise designed to build interoperability between I Corps, the 7th Infantry Division and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Austan Owen/Released)

    Operation Rising Thunder 13: Day 13, platoon level joint training exercise

    Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and U.S. Army Soldiers discuss their next move during a joint platoon exercise at the Yakima Training Center, Wash., Sept. 16, 2013. Rising Thunder is a U.S. Army-hosted exercise designed to build interoperability...

  • A Type 74 tank from the 16th Regimental Combat Team, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force fires on a target during a live fire exercise at Yakima Training Center as part of Operation Rising Thunder 13.

    Rising Thunder rumbles through the Yakima hills

    A Type 74 tank from the 16th Regimental Combat Team, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force fires on a target during a live fire exercise at Yakima Training Center as part of Operation Rising Thunder 13.

YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. - The hills rumbled with explosions as helicopters, tanks and tactical vehicles descended on Yakima Training Center, Wash., for Operation Rising Thunder, Sept. 3-24. After two decades of interaction, the training continues to sustain and develop a relationship between the U.S. Army and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.

The hilly desert region provided wide-open space and terrain for the 800 I Corps soldiers and 500 members of the 16th Regimental Combat Team, JGSDF, to train on a broad array of tactics and equipment. The YTC ranges also allowed for the JGSDF to use weapons systems to their fullest capacity, while simultaneously learning unique tactical training skills from their American counterparts.

Tank, sniper and field artillery training in multi-echelon, combined environments provided a view of each other's military forces methods of training, professionalism and culture.

"Every single day out here the Japanese have been professional and have meshed together very well with our soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Mitchell Shaw, platoon sergeant, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. "Some of their tactics and techniques are a little different from what we do, but their shooting skills are really good. They are definitely learners and tacticians."

A highlight in the training came when for the first time ever, the two forces conducted live-fire training using the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade's newly fielded AH-64E Apache helicopter and the JGSDF AH-64D Apache.

The 20th anniversary of the exercise featured significantly more participation from I Corps units than in the past. Previously the exercise was more limited in scope and saw more of a focus on offering logistic support. With fewer units deployed or prepping for deployment, 7th Infantry Division was able to provide a more robust team to partner with the JGSDF.

"That was a tremendous achievement, because you had Japanese aircraft and U.S. aircraft operating in the same airspace, taking the same commands from the tower, working air-space deconfliction, air space management, fires control and gunnery," said Maj. Gen. Stephan Lanza, commanding general, 7th Infantry Division. "The interoperability was tremendous."

For the Japanese forces, a sniper program is still a fairly new concept. During Operation Rising Thunder the snipers of the 5-20th Infantry Regiment taught, trained and ate with the JGSDF every day to develop a team bond and give the Japanese the skills to return home and train their force further.

"Our sniper program is still in its infancy, so we want to learn as much as possible with this opportunity," said Sgt. Maj. Munetsugo Matsubo, sniper, 16th Regimental Combat Team. "We share a lot of similarities in teaching the basics, but we're amazed at the level of experience that U.S. soldiers have."

The culminating event for Operation Rising Thunder, a two-day live-fire event, tested the forces on skills they had spent two weeks practicing. Following the completion of the successful exercise, many were happy with the results.

"Rising Thunder 13 has been a great event," said Lt. Col. Douglas Walter, battalion commander, 5-20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade 2nd Infantry Division. "I know my soldiers have gotten a lot out of it and the feedback has been positive from the Japanese. It has been phenomenal, just a great experience for the soldiers."

Operation Rising Thunder concluded with a special ceremony including both forces at YTC and a final opportunity for goodbyes.

"We are incredibly proud of the complex combined training that we have conducted and the relationships which we built," said Col. Willard M. Burleson, commander of operations, 7th Infantry Division. "We feel especially honored to have trained with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces that stand ready to respond to Japan's needs."

Page last updated Mon September 30th, 2013 at 16:26