Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces train alongside U.S. Forces at NTC for first time
February 12, 2014
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Soldiers from 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, conducted bilateral training with Japanese soldiers with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's 1st Company, 1st Mechanized Battalion, from Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, last month.
During the training, soldiers from 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, in conjunction with Task Force Arrowhead, shared operational tactics with their Japanese counterparts.
"We had eight Abrams tanks out there to mentor the Japanese and work with them in terms of armored formations and tank maneuvers in the desert," said Capt. Christopher Walgren, Chief of Operations for 3-2 SBCT, 7th Infantry Division.
The training rotation was a first of its kind, as the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces had never trained alongside U.S. forces at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., before.
"This is the very first time for the Japanese Ground Defense Forces," said Maj. Yoshinoki Adachi, of Chiba, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, company commander for 1-1 BN (Mech), JGDF. "The coordination with the U.S. Army was impressive because the language was different ... yet we can fight alongside the U.S. Army to achieve the same objective."
The overall mission was to gain a working relationship with one of the U.S. Army's main allies in the Pacific region, Walgren, a native of Gardner, Mass., said.
"Their battalion came here specifically looking to utilize their armored force in conjunction with our SBCT," Walgren said. "They worked parallel with Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th ACR, as their partnered force inside the brigade taskforce. Their mission was critical on the defense since they were the only armored force as part of the Stryker brigade."
This isn't the first time the JGSDF has worked alongside 3-2 SBCT; it just happens to be the first time they've done so at NTC.
"The brigade worked with the Japanese during Operation Rising Thunder in September out at Yakima Training Center," Walgren said. "That's where it started and then...this was kind of the culminating event."
While it took some extra effort to conduct the military decision making process, the two allies were able to work together despite cultural and tactical difference, Walgren explained. That relationship continued to grow even as the two allies moved out of the field and back to the Rotational Unit Bivouac Area at Fort Irwin.
"Unfortunately during the force-on-force we were unable to contact or communicate with the Stryker brigade; but here in RUBA my soldiers are now having many opportunities to interact or talk with (soldiers from) your brigade," Adachi said.
Training opportunities such as this are good for both countries as it encourages mutual respect and promotes enduring relationships for both U.S. and Japanese soldiers.
Adachi agreed and extended his gratitude for the opportunity to train with 3-2 SBCT at NTC, adding that he hopes there will be more opportunities to train together. Walgren acknowledged that's a distinct possibility.
"Overall it was a very good exercise for us to work together as a combined task force," Walgren said. "I'm sure they'll be other opportunities in the future for the Japanese and 3-2 SBCT to partake in other training events."
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