JAPAN — Soldiers from the Mission Command Training Program (MCTP) recently supported Yama Sakura (YS81) — a joint bilateral military exercise with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) — Dec. 1-12, 2021, conducted across multiple camps in Japan.
YS81 is an annual command post exercise designed to enhance the combat readiness and interoperability between the U.S. Army and the JGSDF. This year was the 40th iteration and was the most significant in size, scope and complexity.
The U.S. participants included I Corps, 25th Infantry Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, U.S. Army Japan, 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB), and a Reserve element — the 9th Mission Support Command. Japan’s forces comprised JGSDF’s Ground Component Command, Middle Army, and Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade.
MCTP delivered a contingent of observer-coach-trainers (OC/T) to support the training alongside Australian and Japanese OC/T teams.
“All the OC/Ts worked hand-in-hand to develop pertinent observations,” said Col. Arieyeh Austin, Chief of Training, MCTP Operations — Group C. “We had to synchronize collection and ensure agreement amongst observing organizations.”
A key focus of the OC/Ts’ observation and coaching was interoperability in communication and procedures between U.S. and Japanese forces.
“We were coaching the units to unify their respective understanding of what the other is doing,” said Austin. “We specifically emphasized the need to operationalize a common picture through operational graphics.”
Austin said the forces made significant gains toward intelligence interoperability. Before long, the U.S.-Japan intelligence section was consistently creating and sharing complex bilateral intelligence products and assessments over their secure networks.
The U.S. Army Combined Arms Center had also dispatched cadre from the Mission Command Center of Excellence Center and the Center for Army Lessons Learned to conduct Army interoperability measurement and capture related lessons.
“The focus of YS81 is to link cross-domain operations of the JGSDF’s to multi-domain operations of the U.S. Army to improve interoperability …,” said Lt. Gen. Shin Nozawa, commanding general, JGSDF Middle Army.
By the end of the exercise, the combined forces achieved their training adjectives. They also routed the Askari opposing forces, who seemed to be overmatched by the coalition’s high rate of advance and highly effective fires.
“This command post exercise makes us more capable and lethal,” said Brig. Gen. Kyle Ellison, commanding general, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. “Although our daily objective is to prevent conflict, our adversaries should not take that to mean we will not be prepared for conflict.”