MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, YAMAGATA, Japan - Soldiers with Battery B, 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, conducted the first US-Japanese air defense exercise at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Yamagata, Japan, Nov. 5-10.Bravo Battery, exercising 1-1 ADA's new deployability capability, deployed with a minimum engagement package (MEP) to participate in Keen Sword 17 with the 339th Battery, 8th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group (8AAG) of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces (JGSDF). Keen Sword is an annual event featuring combined training between U.S. and Japanese forces to exercise the methods created from Keen Edge. Bravo Battery worked with the 8AAG to create and integrate a layered air defense design reflecting the first time U.S. Patriot systems worked hand-in-hand with the Japanese Chu-SAM air defense system.Bravo Battery's opportunity to work with JGSDF was a rare opportunity. In the past decade, 1-1 ADA has focused on integration with Japanese air defense in Okinawa through bilateral exchanges and discussions at the Bilateral Defense of Okinawa Working Group (BDOWG). Despite progress, integration with JGSDF on Okinawa has not evolved into what was conducted at MCAS Iwakuni; bilateral air battles exercising command and control over the bilateral fight."Our mission was to accomplish two objectives," said Capt. Thaddeus Morris, commander, Btry. B, 1-1 ADA. "First, we wanted to create and exercise a bilateral command post in order to coordinate how the U.S. and Japanese can fight together. Secondly, we worked on defense designs to protect MCAS Iwakuni. These aspects reinforced our commitment to defending Japan, while spearheading the way for future US-Japan air defense engagements to fight more effectively."Marines were able to tour the training area throughout the exercise, giving them a chance to enhance joint operations."For most of the Marines at MCAS Iwakuni, this was their first time working with both Army personnel and a U.S. air defense system," said Sgt. William Buckley, Bravo Battery trainer. "We introduced the necessity of air defense and some of the planning factors that must be taken into consideration when a US Patriot battery is present."From working with the 8AAG, the Soldiers of 1-1 ADA were able to effectively fight alongside the Japanese by the end of Keen Sword 17."We worked side by side with the Japanese through sharing our common air picture," said Sgt. Michael Huguley, Bravo Battery command post noncommissioned officer-in-charge. "We were successful through creating common brevity codes, identification criteria, and engagement criteria."
For many of the Bravo Battery Soldiers, it was their first time in mainland Japan."We'd love to come back here to MCAS Iwakuni to continue our air defense training. The weather is great, the Marines are friendly, and it's a completely different culture from Okinawa, Japan," said 1st. Lt. Joseph Brown, Fire Control Platoon Leader, Btry. B, 1-1 ADA. "With the rate that MCAS Iwakuni is expanding, we believe we may come back again as MCAS Iwakuni might become more critical for air defense planners in the coming years."