YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. -- A clear blue sky and warm temperatures covered the valleys of the Yakima Training Center in the early morning. A morning so clear that one could see for many miles into the distance, making targets easy to identify and making for a good first day of Rising Thunder 2015.

Soldiers from the 4th battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division and the 33rd Infantry Regiment, 10th Division, Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, joined together to conduct a mounted operation for the bilateral training exercise at YTC, Washington, Sept. 9.

During the exercise, the units bounded down the range firing at different targets at three different points. The first point allowed the JGSDF to engage a target while their counterparts provided overwatch. At the second point, both units took turns firing at targets. The final point allowed JGSDF troops to fire upon a target while the 4-23 Soldiers provided overwatch again.

The mounted operation provided the units with a scenario that will help aid them in a combine arms live fire exercise, the culminating event of Rising Thunder.

"It helps train our troops in communicating," said 1st Lt. Alex Moore, assigned to the 4-23rd. "It forces us to communicate across vehicles using different methods."

An opportunity to train at YTC was something Japanese troops were thankful for. Unlike a lot of their training sites, YTC provided a bigger range for the JGSDF and allowed them to maneuver tactically in their vehicles while engaging targets. Training with 'Task Force Tomahawk' will help Sgt. 1st. Class Matsuzaki Ryo, a soldier with the JGSDF, measure the readiness of his soldiers.

"This is a great opportunity to challenge us," said Ryo. "We would like to see how we would be deployed and how we deploy our soldiers."

The training will help the JGSDF measure the readiness of its soldiers, Ryo said.

Rising Thunder is an annual training exercise between the U.S. Army and the JGSDF.