Exercise Orient Shield 21-2 came to a close for members of 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment “Black Lions,” 3rd Infantry Division, July 7, 2021, at Aibano Training Area, Japan. The exercise started June 24 as the Black Lions began partnering with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s 15th Rapid Deployment Regiment.
This year's exercise was different from any other Orient Shield before as both sides took extensive precautions to guard against Covid-19.
Orient Shield is the largest U.S. Army and JGSDF bilateral field training exercise being executed in various locations throughout Japan to enhance interoperability and test and refine multi-domain and cross-domain operations.
During the exercise, the Black Lions and 15th RDR conducted various training missions together where they shared knowledge and tactics, increasing the two nations’ ability to work together.
“It was a great opportunity to work with a bilateral partner of the United States and enhance future capabilities for us while validating interoperability,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Pecha, commander of the Black Lions.
The two nations took part in numerous bilateral training events including patrols, air assaults, medical training, military operations in urban terrain training, and mortar training. An equipment display was also held that allowed the Black Lions and 15th RDR to learn about their counterpart’s weapon systems, technology and vehicles.
“In this exercise, we learned a lot from U.S. troops and units, especially about real-world situations, and that has been a great benefit for all of us,” said Col. Junji Shinagawa, commander of the 15th RDR.
Although there were numerous highlights, some specific instances stood out.
“The most memorable moment for me was during our military operations in urban terrain training where we executed company-level operations,” said Pecha. “We took two squads from the JGSDF and put them with two U.S. squads and they executed operations together. It showed how quickly they picked on skills they might not train on regularly.”
As this year’s exercise came to a close, both Pecha and Shinagawa spoke about the importance of continuing the exercise in the future.
“Exercises like Orient Shield continue to show those in the area that we are committed to having a strong partnership with our Japanese allies here in the Indo-Pacific Theater and create continuous improvements in our abilities to work together and communicate,” said Pecha.
Shinagawa said that Japan sits in a precarious area of the world, where severe political threats exist. For him, training with the U.S. helps prepare his regiment for any real-world defensive actions they might be called on to perform and reaffirms the two nation’s status as allies.
“It is very important that we have the U.S. as an ally to secure our peace and independence,” said Shinagwa.
He said that exercises like Orient Shield keep a mutual understanding between the U.S. and Japan and strengthen their ability to work together.
Shinagawa also stated that U.S. Soldiers shared many of the skills and tactics that they learned in real-world combat operations.
For many Black Lions, this exercise was their first time both being abroad and training with foreign counterparts. With the help of translators, both sides traded extra unit patches, snacks and found similarities and differences on how each side operates.
The two nations also took a little time off to engage in a Fourth of July celebration and a cultural exchange day.
With the exercise officially over, the Black Lions have already begun redeploying to their home base at Fort Benning, Georgia.