'Spirit of Samurai' prevails during weeklong medical exercise in Japan
September 5, 2012
SAGAMI DEPOT, Japan (Sept. 5, 2012) -- When a small unit is tagged to provide service and support for a week for more than 200 Soldiers and Airmen, it can seem like an arduous task to accomplish.
The large group of service members assembled on the doorstep of the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion at Sagami Depot, the site of the U.S. Army Pacific-led Medical Exercise 2012, which took place Aug. 27 through Sept. 3.
MEDEX 12 was a USARPAC multi-component, joint service, bilateral exercise that demonstrated the United States' lasting commitment and partnership to Japan by showcasing USARPAC's mass casualty capabilities during a significant event that could pose a serious medical crisis.
The "Samurai" Soldiers of the 35th CSSB were tasked to provide service and support to everyone, including Department of Defense civilians in response to a natural disaster. During the exercise, the units established a combat support hospital as well as the transportation and treatment of mass casualties.
The unit was slated to provide just about every logistical need of the participating units to include lodging, meals, transportation, postal and finance services, and medical- and religious-related services.
Command Sgt. Maj. Ron J. Joshua, command sergeant major of the 35th, explained that preparation in advance of the exercise began months ago. The unit's strength lies within each Soldier by providing the best service and support to anyone visiting Sagami Depot for any USARPAC exercise. Joshua said.
"It's what we do; we provide the best life support and Lieutenant Colonel (Joseph) Ritter, the battalion commander, and I preach it every day," said Joshua. "It's what the Samurai spirit is all about, and we truly believe in taking care of people."
One particular unit, the 325th Combat Support Hospital, traveled more than 6,000 miles from Independence, Mo., to take part in the exercise. Unit representatives said they came to Japan focused on the mission of setting up a combat support hospital, thereby honing their skills to provide medical services to injured personnel.
Maj. William Laver, the assistant chief nurse for the 325th CSH, said that upon their arrival, when he and other members of his unit discovered they were in need of additional supplies, the 35th CSSB team was on hand to assist.
"It's great to know they have our back; if we were here cold trying to obtain a few things we need on our own, it would take away from our initiatives and goals [and] we really could not perform to par," said Laver.
The exercise had high visibility for USARPAC and the region. Throughout the event the Joint Visitor's Bureau was busy hosting everyone from Japanese media to senior military leadership like Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski, USARPAC commander, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Maj. Gen. Naoya Eguchi, chief of staff of the Japan Eastern Army.
Maj. Heather Boyd, chief nurse for the 325th CSH, said while the unit was setting up its hospital facilities, they received a request from the JGSDF to facilitate a combat lifesaver course. To make the training more realistic, they needed additional equipment.
"Literally within hours, the 35th secured everything we required so that critical mission-essential tasks could be conducted with our host nation neighbors," said Boyd.
Wiercinski took a look at the operations for MEDEX 12 and said he was very pleased with the teamwork displayed between both the Americans and Japanese. He spoke about how the exercise demonstrated the strength of the U.S. and Japan's relationship and highlighted the morale of the Soldiers.
"If you walk out there and take a look at who's doing the work, it's the best Soldiers in the world," said Wiercinski. "They're dedicated and their morale is high."
Although the teamwork between the 35th CSSB and participating units remained visible to senior leaders, it was at the lower-enlisted level where Soldiers like the 325th CSH's Spc. Steven Boyd said they were truly impacted by the support.
"It's a good feeling knowing you can be in another country and have some things to make our morale better, especially waking up and going to bed with good chow and having things to do for non-duty hours," said Boyd. "It was a good team effort here, and without it, it would have been difficult."