• Lieutenant generals Benjamin R. Mixon, commander U.S. Army Pacific, and Kazushi Izumi, commander Japanese Ground Self Defense Force Eastern Army, greet each other, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008, at USARPC Operations Command Post before getting their morning brief on bilateral training exercise Yama Sakura 55. This year's exercise, which runs from Nov. 30 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. Yama Sakura 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 forces, while continuing to improve security relations between the two nations. 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. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Roy Henry)

    CAMP ASAKA, JAPAN

    Lieutenant generals Benjamin R. Mixon, commander U.S. Army Pacific, and Kazushi Izumi, commander Japanese Ground Self Defense Force Eastern Army, greet each other, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008, at USARPC Operations Command Post before getting their morning...

  • 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 and verify the movement of Japanese forces, Monday, Dec. 8, 2008, at the U.S. Army Pacific Operations Command Post during bilateral training exercise Yama Sakura 55. This year's exercise, which runs from Nov. 30 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. Yama Sakura is an annual, 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 forces, 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. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Roy Henry)

    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...

  • Army Sgt. 1st Class Tony Bowling (left), first sergeant for Headquarters Company, 8th Theater Sustainment Command out of Fort Shafter, Hawaii, gets a lesson in the art of Calligraphy from Sgt. Maj. Kazuhiko Shimizu of the JGSDF's 104th General Support Battalion, Dec. 3, 2008, at the camp's Freedom Room. Bowling, who hails from Canton, Ill., is one of more than 1,000 American Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen participating in Yama Sakura 55, along with their counterparts from the Japanese ground, air and maritime services. Yama Sakura is a bilateral U.S.-Japan, computerized command post exercise designed to better the defense of Japan, and to protect each country's interests throughout East Asia. Many actually started arriving setting up operations about three weeks prior to the exercise starting. This year's exercise marks the 27th year Japanese and American forces have tested their ability to work together and their capability to defend the Japanese islands. YS55, which officially began, Dec. 7 with a ceremony on the grounds of the JGSDF Transportation School, runs until Dec. 14. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Roy Henry)

    CAMP ASAKA, JAPAN

    Army Sgt. 1st Class Tony Bowling (left), first sergeant for Headquarters Company, 8th Theater Sustainment Command out of Fort Shafter, Hawaii, gets a lesson in the art of Calligraphy from Sgt. Maj. Kazuhiko Shimizu of the JGSDF's 104th General Support...

  • From the left Major Max Moore, chief of future plans for Chuqiak-based U.S. Army Alaska, and Air Force Capt. Melissa Couture enjoy the local cuisine at the camp's Friendship Hall, Dec. 4, 2008, with Capt. Norihisa Yonada, training officer for the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force 1st Airborne Brigade. Moore, who hails from Queens, N.Y., is among the more than 1,000 American Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force personnel participating in Yama Sakura 55, along with their counterparts from the Japanese ground, air and maritime services. Yama Sakura is a bilateral U.S.-Japan, computerized command post exercise designed to better the defense of Japan, and to protect each country's interests throughout East Asia. Many actually started arriving setting up operations about three weeks prior to the exercise starting. This year's exercise marks the 27th year Japanese and American forces have tested their ability to work together and their capability to defend the Japanese islands. YS55, which officially began Dec. 7, with a ceremony on the grounds of the JGSDF Transportation School, runs until Dec. 14. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Roy Henry)

    CAMP ASAKA, JAPAN

    From the left Major Max Moore, chief of future plans for Chuqiak-based U.S. Army Alaska, and Air Force Capt. Melissa Couture enjoy the local cuisine at the camp's Friendship Hall, Dec. 4, 2008, with Capt. Norihisa Yonada, training officer for the...

  • - Lieutenant Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander U.S. Army Pacific, makes a point during the morning brief he and Lt. Gen. Kazushi Izumi, commander Japanese Ground Self Defense Force Eastern Army receive each day at USARPAC Operations Command Post on bilateral training exercise Yama Sakura 55. This year's exercise, which runs from Nov. 30 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. Yama Sakura 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 forces, while continuing to improve security relations between the two nations. 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. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Roy Henry)

    CAMP ASAKA, JAPAN

    - Lieutenant Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander U.S. Army Pacific, makes a point during the morning brief he and Lt. Gen. Kazushi Izumi, commander Japanese Ground Self Defense Force Eastern Army receive each day at USARPAC Operations Command Post on...

CAMP ASAKA, Japan - Over 1,200 U.S. Army Soldiers and nearly 4,500 members of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force conducted exercise Yama Sakura 55 here December 7-14, 2008.
Yama Sakura, which means "mountain cherry blossom," is an annual bilateral exercise designed to strengthen military operations and ties between the U.S. Army and the JGSDF.
"The yearly Yama Sakura exercise has been carried on without interruption for 27 years," said Lt. Gen. Kazushi Izumi, commander of the JGSDF Eastern Army, in a ceremony December 7. "I firmly believe that this exercise holds great significance in promoting the solidarity of U.S. - Japanese relations and contributing to the stability of our region."
Speaking at the ceremony with Izumi was Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander of U.S. Army Pacific. "Yama Sakura provides us an opportunity to train together to simulate full-spectrum joint and bilateral operations while refining both the operational command post roles and responsibilities and the Eastern Army's understanding of and ability to conduct bilateral operations," said Mixon.
The exercise had four objectives: to exchange ideas and techniques; to train U.S. ground forces for a potential deployment to Japan; to refine capabilities necessary to the defense of Japan; and to conduct USARPAC forces for combined, multinational, and joint full spectrum operations. Throughout the exercise the goal was to build relationships both personal and professional between U.S. and Japanese forces.
Differences
Traditionally, the U.S. Army's I Corps participates in the exercise. But recently that command has transformed into an expeditionary war-fighting organization and is currently preparing for a deployment to Iraq as part of the normal rotations of corps headquarters.
This year, command was exercised by the USARPAC Operational Command Post, a new organization itself, designed to move to and command Army units throughout the vast pacific theater as necessary. The OCP leverages communication and knowledge management technology to allow Mixon to command and control USARPAC units from his headquarters in Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
"The total strength of the OCP is small but our equipment package is powerful," explains Maj. Gen. Stephen Layfield, commander of U.S. Army Alaska and deputy commanding general for Mixon during the exercise. "We're very proud of the evolution of this new capability."
More than just proof the new OCP concept, Yama Sakura 55 has showcased the new technology.
"Without question, we have shown that USARPAC does in fact have an operational capability of command and control. We are able to project a command and control system and personnel that can take on a mission," said Layfield.
One Army
Active duty units USARPAC, USARAK, and U.S. Army Japan were joined at Yama Sakura this year by Guardsmen and Reservists from throughout the continental U.S., including Georgia, Mississippi, Colorado, Wyoming, Rhode Island, and California - as well as from Puerto Rico.
The 29th Infantry Division, now part of the Virginia and Maryland National Guard, commanded a division in the computer-generated Command Post Exercise that emulated an attack on Japan by a ficticious military threat. Their goal, explained deputy commanding general Brigadier General Peter C. Hinz, "is to improve relations and improve our ability to work together as military units." Reaching that goal required them to build relationships on a personal and operational level with their Japanese counterparts.
Japan's Constitution constrains the Japan Ground Self Defense Force to missions that defend the Japanese people and ensure their security. This could mean natural disasters or external military threats. Hinz notes that this is operationally quite similar to the role that National Guard units play in the states.
"In addition to our federal mission to mobilize and defend the nation, we have state Defense Support to Civilian Authorities missions," explains Hinz. "So in case of natural disasters or catastrophic events, we perform a lot of the same missions to take care of our local citizens as does the Japan Ground Self Defense Force."

Culture
The Japan Ground Self Defense Force went to great lengths this year to make Yama Sakura not just an operational learning experience but a culturally enriching one. In the evenings before twenty-four hour operations began, the JGSDF hosted events that shared their culture with their American guests.
Events included classes on how to wear traditional Japanese dress; lessons in origami and Japanese flower arrangement; and traditional dance and drum classes. Traditional Japanese martial arts, or budo, such as aikido, kashima shinryu, and kendo (Japanese fencing) were also demonstrated.
Occasionally, a quiet Japanese room provided an intimate setting for authentic and unforgettable green tea ceremonies for small groups of American soldiers. And a group of 30 American and Japanese participants in Yama Sakura visited the Saitama Ikuji-in orphanage to provide a little early holiday cheer to the children there as part of an outreach to the local community.
As the new commander of U.S. forces in Japan, Maj. Gen. Francis Wiercinski was excited to see that many soldiers took advantage of these opportunities.
"Our soldiers are learning about Japanese culture, they're doing Japanese arts and crafts, they're eating Japanese food, they're working with the Japanese soldiers, they're learning a new language and a whole new culture," said Wiercinski. "I think this just strengthens our bonds, and it's really great to see."
Strong Ties
Trade, finance, energy resource exploration, and migration are experiencing unprecedented growth in the pacific region. Through exercises such as Yama Sakura the United States demonstrates its commitment to working with its allies and friends to promote security and stability throughout the region.
"We're building bilateral relations, we're conducting bilateral operations, we're testing our systems, and we're employing new doctrine," observes Wiercinski. "I can't think of a better exercise that I've been associated with in my time in the service."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16