YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. - Operation Rising Thunder, a combined training exercise with members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force and U.S. soldiers, kicked off with a bang Sept. 3, at Yakima Training Center, Wash. During the exercise both forces pushed their vehicles to the limits in the harsh highland desert terrain. Mechanics with the JGSDF and the U.S. Army were ready for the challenge.
The combat repair team with B Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division and a sister team with the JGSDF spent countless hours keeping vehicles fit to fight during the training exercise in a shared repair shop at YTC.
"We all work hard to get these vehicles turned around," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mathew Rider, CRT chief, B Company, 5-20 Inf. "We work late, just knowing the vehicles need to get back in the fight. Our mechanics are up for the mission and we don't call it quits until that vehicle rolls out of the bay."
He added that during the exercise his team repaired as many as 12 vehicles per day.
While the CRT worked mostly on Strykers, just a few bays down the Japanese mechanics toiled tirelessly on their own vehicles. The two teams became friends quickly after many hours working side-by-side.
The JGSDF and CRT mechanics would often help each other out if one team noticed the other had a large workload, said Pfc. Cody Lambert, Stryker mechanic, B Company, 5-20 Inf.
Lambert said that during a particularly hard job of changing out a transfer case and removing heavy floor panels from a Stryker, the entire Japanese mechanic team stopped what they were doing and came to his aid.
Although the mechanics from both nations spoke different languages they were able to communicate with each other effectively as they worked together.
"Mechanics have a universal language," said Rider. "You look at the machine, you see what is broken, you take it off and repair it. We all use the same tools; a wrench is a wrench; a socket is a socket and a hammer is a hammer."
Another universal language in the maintenance shop is humor. Under a heavy workload the phrase "Hurry up!" is thrown around on a regular basis.
After the first week working together the Japanese shop foreman, Sgt. 1st Class Iwamoto, started yelling it to his guys in broken English, said Rider.
By the second week everyone was yelling, "Hurry up!" in a good-natured manner. Toward the end of the exercise the phrase had become the unofficial moniker of the combined mechanic team encouraging everyone to maintain the pace and enthusiasm at which they accomplished the mission.
Close to wrapping up the three week mission, Rider and Iwamoto agreed that they had learned a lot from each other.
Rider said, "The team building between the Japanese and the U.S. mechanics is a great experience. One that our guys won't forget and I'm sure they won't either."