OKINAWA, Japan – U.S. Army Japan deployed units from the continental United States and various locations throughout Japan to test and refine multi-domain capabilities and push new boundaries with the joint force in the Ryukyu southwest island archipelago chain during Orient Shield 21-1 from Oct. 26 to Nov 6.
OS21-1 is the largest U.S. Army field training exercise in Japan and this year included participants from U.S. Army Aviation Battalion-Japan, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, U.S. Army Japan Headquarters and 3rd Marine Division. Orient Shield focused on increasing combat readiness and synchronization efforts between U.S. Army Pacific, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and U.S. Forces Japan.
“Orient Shield gives us the opportunity to operate in a complex and dynamic environment,” said Lt. Col. Michael Omodt, battalion commander, U.S. Army Aviation Battalion-Japan. “Flying overwater and supporting the joint team in the southwest island chain during deck landings, overwater air movements, and Link 16 network operations highlight a few of the objectives we set out to achieve during the exercise.”
Omodt’s aviation battalion successfully deployed several U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters, maintenance equipment and supporting personnel from Camp Zama to Kadena Air Base during OS21-1. After arrival in Okinawa, the battalion supported key joint and unilateral exercise training objectives in the air and multi-domain battlespace, including Special Operations Forces High Altitude-Low Opening (HALO) operations, aerial resupply and Link 16 sensor-to-shooter capabilities.
“Exercise Orient Shield was an excellent opportunity to practice joint artillery training with both Marines and Army HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System),” said 1st Lt. Luke Luccioni, platoon commander, Battery R, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
During OS 21-1, EABO (Expeditionary Advanced Based Operations) complemented Multi-Domain Operations and tested rapid deployment equipment training by conducting joint amphibious raids through an island chain followed by long-range precision simulated fires.
“We were able to exercise the EABO concept by using Army amphibious landing craft, and inserting into a key littoral area to execute a practice fire mission,” said Luccioni. “Anytime the Army and Marine Corps are able to work together enhances the combined output of the armed forces.”
EAOB supports the joint force maritime component commander and fleet commanders in fight for sea control, by exploiting the opportunities afforded by key maritime terrain, particularly in close and confined seas.
“As anyone who has been a planner in 2020 can attest, it has been an unprecedented challenge pulling off any kind of joint or bilateral training in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Maj. Aaron Mosier, operations officer, 1-94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade. “Orient Shield and Keen Sword really represent one of our brigade’s last chance to get our soldiers overseas to get an opportunity like this, and we were fortunate to take advantage of it.”
Mosier’s battalion deployed multiple M142 HIMARS from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, to Japan on Air Force C-17 aircraft.
“In the last ten days, we have really gotten to participate in some ground-breaking training with the Marines. Both of us have had to figure out what targeting maritime targets from a land-based location looks like, and our collaborations have resulted in new products, new TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) in targeting, mobility, and joint communications, and a greater overall appreciation for what each of us brings to the fight,” said Mosier. “The lessons we learned here will provide us with invaluable information to help us set conditions for future exercise incorporating joint and multi-national live-fire capabilities in the southwest islands.”
OS21 strengthened joint interoperability and demonstrated U.S. commitment to support the security interests of allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Orient Shield 21-1 is very unique compared to previous iterations. First and foremost it’s tucked under the greater exercise called Keen Sword, which is one of the biggest joint exercises we have in the region,” said Maj. Gen. Viet X. Luong, commanding general, USARJ. “But specific to Orient Shield there were several unique things that we did this go-around. In the past we had principally trained with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in western Japan and this time we are training in Okinawa with our Marine counterparts in support of the Japan Self-Defense Forces.”
Soldiers were exposed to unique geographical training environments that challenged individuals, systems, and personnel to enhance the levels of interoperability in long-range precision fires in the multi-domain battlespace with the deployment, exercise evaluation, and redeployment of 17th Field Artillery Brigade from JBLM to the Ryukyu southwest island archipelago chain.
Orient Shield 21-1 demonstrated USARJ’s ability to integrate into the joint force and execute multi-domain operations that include lethal long-range precision fires, Army watercraft systems, Army aviation, and integrated joint defense capabilities.