CAMP HIGASHI-CHITOSE, Japan -- A local community engagement project in nearby Chitose added one more building block to a growing relationship between U.S. and Japanese military forces here, Oct 23.
A roadway cleanup project partnered 22 U.S. Soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. with a dozen Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces (JGSDF), 11th Infantry Regiment, 7th Armor Division members clearing debris and trash from approximately two miles of local highway just outside the base entrance.
The U.S. Soldiers are in Japan participating in Orient Shield 14, an annual bilateral training exercise that partners U.S. Army Soldiers and JGSDF members for staff and field training exercises, October 27 to November 7.
According to Col. Louis Zeisman, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Commander, building relationships between the U.S. Army and the JGSDF is one of the primary goals of the exercise.
"We're here to share experiences, exchange ideas and build relationships. We have the same type of engagements at home with our community partner and always enjoy giving back to them." Zeisman explained.
For the group picking up debris, what was expected to be a routine job of trash pickup turned into lively conversations between the two forces and a competition to find debris to pick up.
"The city is really clean so there isn't a lot to do, but it's a good cause and I'm glad we're doing this," said Spc. Antonio Araguz, an Automated Logistics Specialist assigned to D Co. 3rd Battalion, 25th Combat Aviation Regiment from Wheeler Field, Hi. "I like that we can interact with our counterparts outside of our normal military duties," Araguz added.
According to Sgt. Major Mikie Kudou, JGSDF NCO Association Chairman and the project coordinator, the JGSDF often cleans up within the community and routinely removes snow or trash for the elderly in their communities.
"Working together with our U.S. partners through this project helps us make better relationships," said Kudou. "All the Soldiers did a very good job."