Yama Sakura strengthens partnerships
CAMP ASAKA, JAPAN - From the left 1st Lt. Satoshi Masaka, Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) Plans Division-Northeast Army and members of the Tennessee National Guard's 230th Theater Sustainment Brigade, engineer Maj. Jennifer Steed; military intelligence systems analyst Staff Sgt. Charles Williams; and maintenance NCOIC Master Sgt. David Spence track - verify - the movement of Japanese forces, Monday, Dec. 8, 2008, at the U.S. Army Pacific Operations Command Post during bilateral training exercises Yama Sakura 55. (U.S. Army photo by )

Exercise Yama Sakura, meaning Mountain Cherry Blossom in Japanese, which runs from Dec. 8 to Dec. 14, marks the 27th year Japanese and American forces have tested their ability to work together and their capability to defend the Japanese islands. This also is the first time USARPAC has taken on the role of being the operational command post for Yama Sakura. This exercise is an annual bilateral, computer-based command post exercise conducted by the United States and Japan. This year, more than 1,000 Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine personnel are here interacting with their counterparts from the Japan ground, air and maritime self defense forces. Yama Sakura is intended to improve combat readiness of both militaries, while continuing to improve security relations between the two nations. "The interest of our countries in defending Japan and keeping the peace in the region requires us to become more familiar with how we will conduct bilateral operations if a situation happens," Masaka said. "It's a great privilege to be working along side my American counterparts in this endeavor." Steed, Williams and Spence echoed his sentiments. "Being here, and taking part in YS 55 also is a great honor for us," Steed said. "Through this exercise, we [the U.S. and Japanese military] create a better understanding of how we'll work together on the battlefield to halt any threat to the people of this great island nation." Camp Asaka, 12 miles west of Tokyo, is headquarters for the JGSDF's Eastern Army, and it's the main defense-force hub for Tokyo and 10 surrounding prefectures.

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