JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - In a demonstration of U.S. commitment to its allies under any condition, I Corps has transformed Yama Sakura 79 into the largest geographically dispersed virtual training event in the exercise's 38-year history, with more than 500 U.S. and Japanese service members working together while nearly 5,000 miles apart.
The unique quality of this year's exercise was apparent right from the opening ceremony - instead of Japanese and American Soldiers in side-by-side formations at a Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) parade field, the virtual opening ceremony saw both sides tuning into a live stream conference across a secure network Dec. 6. I Corps and the JGSDF will continue to train and strengthen their strategic partnership, despite the pandemic, via electronic communication and video conferences throughout the weeklong exercise.
“We are proud to demonstrate the strength of our partnership with the JGSDF and the capabilities we maintain for long range communication and fires coordination," said Lt. Gen. Randy George, I Corps commander, from a field site on JBLM in his opening ceremony speech. "Our ally's commitment to the exercise despite COVID restrictions really speaks volumes about the strength of our partnership with the JGSDF."
Yama Sakura is an annual, seven-day, command post exercise that enables U.S. military and JGSDF to train against a realistic scenario that tests both capabilities and interoperability to fulfill obligations under the mutual defense treaty to defend Japan and enhance stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region. I Corps serves as high command and land component command for Yama Sakura, overseeing units from the 25th Infantry Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and U.S. Army Japan. I Corps normally sends more than 200 Soldiers to Japan for the annual exercise, but due to COVID restrictions only a small contingent of liaison officers traveled there this year.