AIBANO TRAINING AREA, SHIGA PREFECTURE, Japan — U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment “Black Lions,” 3rd Infantry Division, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s 15th Rapid Deployment Regiment (RDR) conducted bilateral training at the Aibano Training Area, Japan, June 25, 2021, as part of exercise Orient Shield 21-2.
Both parties took turns performing squad-level demonstrations to further understand and collaborate with their respective partners.
“This is my first time working with the United States Army,” said Corporal Kouki Kumada, a radio operator assigned to 15th RDR. “I am very honored.”
Since its inception in 1985, Orient Shield marks a continued commitment by the United States and Japan to work as dedicated partners in support of the U.S.-Japan security alliance and for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Orient Shield 21-2 will allow both 15th RDR and the Black Lions to hone their skills and learn from one another.
Participants spent the morning together in the woods practicing mounted and unmounted exercises. Kumada said he demonstrated the need for stealth and teamwork to his American counterparts.
“Today’s exercise was to see the difference between how the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) runs their squad operations and how the U.S. Army runs our squad operations,” said Sgt. 1st Class Randall Durbin, a platoon sergeant with the Black Lions.
Although there are marked differences in how the two nations operate, Durbin feels that exercises like Orient Shield bring mutual understanding and opportunities to learn together.
“Today, both forces know more than when we started,” said Durbin. “I’m confident that throughout this exercise, both the U.S. and Japanese participants will continue to share and grow together.”
While demonstrating tactics and techniques is a big part of the exercise, Orient Shield also provides time to strengthen military-to-military relationships through the camaraderie formed in-between activities.
“Having lunch with the Japanese forces today and getting the chance to converse with them and get to know them helps us build a relationship,” said Durbin. “Just being able to see what members from both nations eat is a great learning experience for everybody,” Durbin continued.
Following lunch, demonstrations continued as members from the U.S. and JGSDF practiced squad-level movement and maneuvers in a forest clearing.
U.S. and Japanese forces will continue to train together in the coming weeks and will move through squad, platoon and company-level training together during Orient Shield.