CAMP ZAMA, Japan (April 23, 2012) -- A training event on responding to hazardous material- and weapons of mass destruction-related disasters was conducted by members of the U.S. Army Garrison Japan Fire Department and their Japanese counterparts April 19 here.

The bilateral seminar -- the first of its kind to be held at the installation -- focused on the Army's Incident Command System, which outlines how incident commanders analyze conditions and factors related to unique crises or disasters in order to most effectively mitigate them.

More than 170 guests, including officials from the Government of Japan; fire, police and emergency management personnel from the Japanese Self-Defense Force; local fire fighters; and local city officials, attended the seminar. The event presented response scenarios not only to terrorist attacks, but also accidents caused by abuse or misuse of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials.

"It's all about bilateral training with our partners so that our capabilities increase in the case of a disaster," said William Moore, fire chief for the Directorate of Emergency Services at USAG-J. "It continues to increase our relationships with our bilateral departments. We need to know each others' capabilities, and this seminar today is certainly taking that to another level. The face-to-face communication between our firefighters and [the Japanese community and its officials] is very important."

Last October, an agreement known as the Memorandum of Understanding of Disaster Preparedness and Disaster Response Operations was signed jointly by officials from U.S. Army Japan and the installation's neighboring Sagamihara and Zama cities as a means to enhance mutual assistance in the event of a disaster.

"Everyone [being] here today shows how critical it is to all come together and work as a team in order to be able to respond to and support our communities." said Col. Eric Tilley, USAG-J commander. "I hope that this seminar serves as the foundation for the next step."

Members of the USAG-J Fire Department set up an area in the parking lot of the Camp Zama Community Club here where they displayed equipment and demonstrated their response capabilities to the attendees. Displays included a decontamination unit, an emergency command post, and a mobile extinguishing demonstration using one of the department's fire trucks.

"We are very appreciative of the U.S. military forces for supporting Japan through [the official relief effort] Operation Tomodachi following the 2011 Great Eastern Japan disaster," said Tetsu Okumura, the Government of Japan's senior officer for countermeasures against Nuclear, Biological and Chemical threats. "This seminar is a good opportunity for both sides to understand how the other works in case of a disaster.

"Knowing each other is the first step, and it is important to continue to communicate through these seminars or bilateral exercises," Okumura added. "The partnership between Japan and the U.S. is the key to maintaining peace in the Far East area. I'm very excited to see the next full-scale [bilateral] exercise in the summer."

Okumura was referring to an upcoming planned exercise that will be coordinated by USAG-J and will involve several bilateral organizations responding jointly to a disaster scenario.