CAMP ASAKA, Saitama, Japan — U.S. Army, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and the Australian Army met once again for the start of Yama Sakura 85, an annual multilateral command post exercise focused on the defense of Japan. December 4, 2023, marked the opening ceremony of the largest iteration of YS since its inception more than 40 years ago.
Approximately 7,000 service members from participating forces will attend YS this year. They will conduct the exercise in multiple locations, including Camp Higashi-Chitose, Hokkaido; Camp Sendai, Miyagi; Camp Asaka, Tokyo; U.S. Army Camp Zama, Nakagawa Prefecture and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, from Nov. 30 - Dec. 13, 2023. This is the first year the Australian Army will be stepping out of an observer role and participating directly in the exercise.
According to the commanding general of the JGSDF’s Ground Component Command, Lt. Gen. Ryoji Takemoto, with the ever-changing global environment it is vital now more than ever that YS-85 takes place.
“Under such circumstances, I believe that conducting a large-scale Japan-U.S.-Australia CPX in the name of YS will greatly enhance trilateral operation capabilities,” said Takemoto. “It also shows the deepening bonds between the three nations to the world, which would reinforce response capabilities and deterrence in East Asia.”
Takemoto requested that all forces involved this year focus on enhancing operational capabilities.
“JGSDF has steadily improved its capabilities with the U.S. and Australian Army through field and firing exercises, and CPXs such as Talisman Sabre, Orient Shield and YS preparations,” said Takemoto. “We would like you to reflect on the lessons learned from these exercises to improve our operational capabilities.”
Takemoto also wanted all participants involved to improve the interoperability between the forces. He mentioned that the three elements of enhancing interoperability will be through the perspective of workflow, systems and equipment, and empowerment through command and control.
Takemoto says that all forces involved will learn from each other and overcome their differences through YS-85, even with the variances in operations, doctrine, equipment and actual wartime experiences.
“The fundamental to improving interoperability is mutual understanding,” said Takemoto. “I wish for all the soldiers from Japan, the U.S., and Australia to deepen the bond amongst each other through this exercise.”
Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson, the commanding general of America’s First Corps, concurred with Takemoto about building strong bonds and procedural interoperability to strengthen the alliance.
“The Japanese-U.S. alliance has served as the foundation for regional peace and security for well over 60 years,” said Brunson. “I want to personally thank Lt. Gen. Takemoto and the Ground Component Command for welcoming us back to Japan and for your immense hospitality. I also want to recognize the participation of our ally and friend, the 1st Division of the Australian Army.”
Brunson made it apparent that interoperability between the three nations is paramount to the success of YS-85.
“Over the next ten days, we will test, develop and refine our processes in multi-domain and cross-domain operations in this command post training exercise, with the purpose of increasing our combined and joint force lethality and combined readiness,” said Brunson. “These events are crucial in developing the human and procedural interoperability, which will carry us through the hardest of times.”
As a part of U.S. Army Pacific’s Operation Pathways, the 43rd iteration of Yama Sakura exercise — YS-85 — is the first U.S. Army, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and Australian Army command post exercise based in Japan.
Participants from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and the Australian Army train together with Soldiers of the U.S. Army I Corps, 7th Infantry Division, 11th Airborne Division, U.S. Army Japan, U.S. Army Reserve and U.S. Army National Guard in a joint environment to strengthen multi-domain and cross-domain interoperability and readiness to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.