By Dustin Perry, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsSeptember 4, 2012
GOTEMBA CITY, Japan (Sept. 4, 2012) -- The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force displayed its tactical, weapons and aircraft capabilities to the public during the annual Fuji Firepower Demonstration, held Aug. 24 through 26 at the East Fuji Maneuver Area here.
Each two-hour exhibition included more than 2,000 JGSDF members manning 80 tanks and other vehicles, firing 80 artillery pieces, and flying 30 aircraft on the massive, hilled range.
"There are two main purposes of this demonstration," said 2nd Lt. Takashi Tomiyoshi, a public affairs officer assigned to the JSGDF Fuji School. "One is to educate the JGSDF members, especially members of the Fuji School. The other is to help the citizens of Japan to better understand the role we play in the defense of our country."
Crowds seated in bleachers and on the ground near the demonstration area watched as wave after wave of armored behemoths like the Type 89 Infantry Fighting Vehicle and the Type 99 howitzer tank charged onto the range.
"For me, as an infantry officer, I liked seeing the dismounted systems that the [JGSDF] soldiers have," said attendee Col. Anthony Feagin, the deputy chief of staff of G3 at U.S. Army Japan. "And as a former Bradley company commander, I enjoyed watching the Infantry Fighting Vehicle fire its 35 millimeter tank gun."
The machines maneuvered and took their positions before the crews manning the weapons systems fired in unison or direct succession at predetermined targets, often creating synchronized explosive blasts several hundred meters away. Aircraft like the CH-47J helicopter were also included in the demonstration.
"This is my first time here, and it exceeded my expectations," said Col. Nora Marcos, deputy chief of staff of G6 at USARJ. "I had heard great things about it, but I was really impressed with what I saw -- the discipline, the firepower, the crowd support -- it was awesome to see."
Another first-time observer of the exercise was Col. Vivian Hutson, commander of Medical Department Activity -- Japan at Camp Zama, who agreed that the event was "absolutely outstanding."
"The exercise was very synchronized, and you can tell that the [JGSDF] troops were very well prepared and their capabilities are very advanced," said Hutson. "They are definitely one of our most important allies and strategic partners."
"We are very proud of this opportunity because we get to show the general public what we in the JGSDF do," said Tomiyoshi. "It was [also] a good opportunity to be able to invite U.S. Army Japan Soldiers to this demonstration, so that they can gain a better understanding of our proficiency."
Several Soldiers and civilians from Camp Zama attended the event. Those present for the demonstration said they were extremely impressed with the number of Japanese spectators -- nearly 76,000 annually -- who attended. Due to extreme demand for tickets to the demonstration, the general public must win their tickets in an open drawing.
"It's great to see the support the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force has from their civilian population," said Marcos. "I'm grateful for the invitation and the opportunity to come out here."