Camp Kengun, Japan - U.S. Army and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers are learning valuable lessons from each other during the bilateral field exercise Orient Shield 19 in Japan, Sept. 5-24, 2019. OS 19 is a premier U.S. Army and JGSDF bilateral field training exercise that is meant to increase interoperability by testing and refining multi-domain and cross-domain concepts.
"While we have been out here, I believe that we both have learned several things about each other's systems." said Staff Sgt. Michael Graham, M-142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System crew chief from 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade.
The systems that Graham is speaking about are the U.S. Army's HIMARS and the JGSDF's Type 12 Surface to Ship Missile system. These units have been training together to learn what their tactics, techniques and procedures are when it comes to their different capabilities and operational styles.
"One of the things that I have learned is that the Japanese are really good when it comes to the cover and concealment of their system," said Graham. "I think what they have learned from us is the efficiency of how we load and unload our rockets."
The Illinois Army National Guard's 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team also joined in the training during OS 19 with the JGSDF's 4th Division, Western Army.
"We are out here with the Japanese showing them how we run convoys, reacting to contact and how we conduct ambushes and recons," said Spc. Luis Leyda, an infantry team leader with the 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment, 33rd IBCT. "We are doing this in a crawl, walk, run style of training, where we go through the motions of the training with our Japanese counterparts. Then when we feel that we all understand it, we will conduct the live fire training."
Leyda goes on to explain that they have learned some new procedures about the tactics that the Japanese employ that are a little different from the tactics that U.S. doctrine uses. These battle drills are not necessarily better or worse, they are different, and that's why OS 19 provides great opportunities for allies to share several ideas and methods on battlefield operations.
After two weeks in the field for both the artillery systems and the infantry units, both countries soldiers have learned from each other while having some fun in the process.
"It doesn't have to be mission all the time," said Leyda. "Like us, as infantrymen they have their own rituals and games that they go through and play."
One of the games that the soldiers all played together was called the watermelon game. This is where you have two teams and the first person is blindfolded, spun around and directed to hit a watermelon with a stick. If they miss, the next person in line is up. The first team that smashes the watermelon wins.
"We are learning as much as we can out here," said Leyda. "Yet they are just like any other grunt, they are energetic and loud, just like us and we love it because that energy on energy is awesome!"