YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. -- An opening ceremony for Rising Thunder 2015 was held at Yakima Training Center in Yakima, Washington, Sept. 8, 2015.

The ceremony marked the beginning of the 22nd annual bilateral training exercise between the United States Army and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force.

"Task Force Tomahawk," comprised of 7th Infantry Division elements led by the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, combined with the 33rd Infantry Regiment, 10th Division, Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, forming a force of over 700 strong for the annual training event.

The commander of the 33rd Infantry Regiment, JGSDF expressed his gratitude to members of the audience and also spoke of his mission while here.

"This is a great opportunity for us to learn from them," said Col. Shoji Shimomoto. "Although we are different in language, culture and ability, I want U.S. Army and JGSDF to build mutual trust."

Lt. Col. Dan Rayca, commander of the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, expressed his confidence in the Soldiers and their mission.

"The Soldiers standing before you are representatives of the very finest of our two nations," said Rayca. "I am confident that we will surpass the expectations for the training and that both our forces will leave here unified and prepared to defend what our countries hold most sacred: our freedom."

The three-week training event will include individual, squad, platoon, company and battalion live fire exercises culminating with a combined live fire event.

Apart from all the training, the Pacific partners have planned several events in which the JGSDF will have the opportunity to enjoy some American hospitality. There is a softball game and barbecue scheduled between the two and members from both forces will participate in the half marathon in neighboring Selah. There are also home visits scheduled in which families from Yakima will open their homes to members of the JGSDF.