Partnering with the Japanese in support of Pacific pivot
July 24, 2014
YOKOHAMA NORTH DOCK, Japan (July 24, 2014) -- Army Field Support Battalion-Northeast Asia hosted the Honorable Itsunori Onodera, the Japanese Minister of defense, at the United States Army's Watercraft Equipment Base-Yokohama North Dock, June 27.
"This visit was the culmination of several years of partnership between the Japan Ground Self Defense Force and the U.S. military in Japan, and it highlighted the great strategic relationship that exists between the United States and Japan," said Lt. Col. Chris Noe, commander of theArmy Field Support Battalion-Northeast Asia, or AFSBn-NEA.
During his visit, Onodera received an overview on Army watercraft and Army Prepositioned Stocks stored at Watercraft Equipment Base-Yokohama North Dock, referred to as WEB-YND, concluding with a tour of United States Army Vessel Coamo. Onodera showed an interest in the capability of U.S. Army watercraft, specifically in their ability to provide support during humanitarian crises.
"JGSDF (Japan Ground Self Defense Force) has slowly begun transforming itself into a more modern army, capable of projecting its forces to protect their homeland," said Noe. "Part of their modernization efforts are aimed at increasing their littoral operational capability, specifically focused on support to Japan's southern islands, which are geographically dispersed from the mainland islands."
As Japan moves forward with increasing their amphibious capability, they look to their long-time ally, the United States, as a model. As part of Army Prepositioned Stocks in Japan, AFSBn-NEA maintains 36 Army watercraft systems at WEB-YND including various landing craft, tug boats, cranes, and a modular causeway system.
PARTNERSHIP GROWTH AND VISITS
"Over the last few years, AFSBn-NEA has hosted 15 JGSDF delegations to WEB-YND, and AFSBn-NEA's additional site in Japan: Sagami General Depot. These have all served to strengthen the partnership between the two countries," explained Noe.
The association between the JGSDF and AFSBn-NEA began in late 2011, when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit the east coast of Japan triggering a large tsunami, and causing damage on the island of Honshu, March 11, 2011. Subsequently, Japan asked the U.S. Army to support disaster relief operations with equipment from Army Prepositioned Stocks maintained by AFSBn-NEA. This included generators, showers, water distribution, and other equipment, totaling over 100,000 individual pieces.
"This was the first opportunity many key leaders in both the U.S. and Japanese militaries had seen APS (Army Prepositioned Stocks) in action, causing many to see the great value that APS brings following natural disasters," said Noe.
Armed with this new knowledge, leaders in both armies began interacting more, which led to recurring visits with various Japanese military schools, including the Japanese Joint Staff College and the Japanese Quartermaster, Ordnance, and Engineer Schools. Additionally, AFSBn-NEA has hosted visits with various units, such as the Japanese Western Army, the 12th Air Assault Brigade and the Japanese Ground Staff Office G4, which is equivalent to the Department of the Army G4. These visits provide a great opportunity to share the U.S. Army's capabilities and equipment with our Japanese allies, and reach multiple echelons of the JGSDF.
In addition to interaction with JGSDF personnel during visits, AFSBn-NEA and its higher headquarters, the 403rd Army Field Support Brigade, have participated in various bilateral exercises and conferences. In June 2013, the brigade participated in the first Western Army Amphibious Symposium at Camp Kengun, in Kumamoto, where it interfaced with elements of the JGSDF, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, U.S. Army Japan, and the III Marine Expeditionary Force. In December 2013, the brigade participated in Exercise Yama Sakura 65, at Camp Chitose, in Hokkaido, where it collaborated with the U.S. I Corps and the Japanese Northern Army.
"This exercise allowed the brigade to educate strategic partners and allies on the capabilities of APS and other sustainment enabling capabilities of the 403rd AFSB such as linkage to the strategic logistics enterprise," said Noe.
In December 2014, the 403rd AFSB will participate in Yama Sakura 67 at Camp Asaka, Tokyo, furthering the partnership.
"AFSBn-NEA is already leaning forward to partner with additional Japanese units with visits from the Japanese Engineer School, and the Japanese Observer Exchange Program," said Noe. "In the end, these key leader engagements with members of the Japanese Government help to reinforce relationships between the United States and Japan at both the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. AFSBn-NEA looks forward to continuing these vitally important partnerships well into the future."