Hundreds of U.S. Army and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) service members gathered Dec. 9, 2018 at Camp Higashi-Chitose, Hokkaido, Japan, to kick off the bilateral Japanese and U.S. opening ceremony for the Japan-based exercise Yama Sakura 75.

Yama Sakura 75 is the 37th iteration of the bilateral, command post exercise between the two nations. The U. S. Army's I Corps and the JGSDF's Northern Army used the exercise to enhance their combat readiness, as well as demonstrate U.S. support to security interests of allies within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

"The Soldiers of America's First Corps are committed to our partnership, and this exercise is an opportunity to learn, grow and build capacity in both of our organizations," said Lt. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, the commander of I Corps . "A critical objective for this exercise is strengthening the Japanese military alliance and building combined readiness across our formations."

During the ceremony, Volesky and JGSDF Lt. Gen. Masato Taura, Northern Army commanding general, spoke to the exercise participants about strengthening trust while enhancing their understanding of war fighting capabilities between both countries.

"As a combined joint task force, we have an opportunity to create deeper interoperability between our militaries through shared understanding," said Volesky. "Our commitment to each other is enduring, and I believe this will show throughout the exercise."

Following the remarks, both countries service members delivered a resounding battle cry where each group shouted "Forward! Together!" in both countries native languages.

Yama Sakura 75 is set to run until Dec. 16 and will train U.S. and JGSDF capabilities to defend Japan during joint unified land operations.