HONSHU, Japan -- Exercise Keen Sword is designed to enhance Japan-U.S. combat readiness and interoperability. It strengthens bilateral relationships and demonstrates U.S. resolve to support the security interest of all allies and partners in the region.
Soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, took part in this training exercise from Oct. 29 through Nov. 8, 2018, in Honshu and Okinawa.
Dating back to the mid-1980s, this training between the U.S. and Japan has been a routine, recurring event for the U.S.-Japan Alliance. Keen Sword is a concrete example of the strength of the alliance and the foundation of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region for more than 60 years.
Keen Sword included partnerships with the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Marines, Japan Air and Ground Self Defense Force; and for the first time, the Canadian Navy participated.
Roughly 10,000 service members from the following units participated in Keen Sword: U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Forces Japan, 5th Air Force, 374th Airlift Wing, 18th Wing, 35th Fighter Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
Although 1-1 ADA, played a small role in a large picture, they were able make a strong and lasting impact.
Prior to taking part in Keen Sword, the 1-1 ADA had to execute multiple phases of preparation.
They conducted an Operational Readiness Exercise and a Mission Rehearsal Exercise between Oct. 5 to Nov. 2, in Okinawa and Honshu prior to Keen Sword. This process was conducted in three phases: Preparation, Execution and Recovery.
"1-1 ADA continuously partners with JASDF and JGSDF air and missile defense units both in Okinawa and Honshu, Japan," said 1st Lt. Matthew Brewer, an air defense officer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1-1 ADA. "We have the common mission of defending our assigned assets with similar weapons systems."
Through the proper use of their expertise, they were able to accomplish their mission.
"The mission of 1-1 ADA was to validate battle positions, systems and procedures for use during contingency operations," Brewer stated. "We occupied battle positions on Honshu and Okinawa."
Exercises such as this, provides the opportunity to exercise bilateral capabilities and identify gaps and seams, Brewer said.
Overall, they continue to improve combat readiness through exercises such as this. Sgt. Maj. Tommy Flores, G35 Operations sergeant major, assigned to the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, served as an external evaluator during Keen Sword.
"1-1 did extremely well during the [External Evaluation], they are a highly motivated unit that performed at a high level of proficiency," Flores said when asked about the performance of 1-1 ADA during Keen Sword. "Exercises like Keen Sword identifies the shortfalls and helps us refine our [tactics, techniques and procedures]."
Flores went on to explain his role as an external evaluator during the exercise and the importance of his role. "I analyzed the units performance throughout mission planning, preparation and execution," Flores stated. "I helped them to update their SOP's, TTP's and best practices as an outsider of their organization."
Over the course of the exercise, the main goal was to reach the overall expected outcome set forth by leadership, which was to execute wartime posture and mission essential task list proficiency, Flores remarked.
In the bigger picture, continuing interoperability with ally nations is the goal for everyone involved in Keen Sword.
"We have worked together in the past and exercises like Keen Sword help us to build upon our shared responsibilities in the Pacific [Area of Responsibilities]," Flores said.