SAGAMIHARA, Japan (Sept. 5, 2012) -- U.S. Army Japan's participation in the Sagamihara City Disaster Drill Sept. 2 at Fuchinobe Park here helped maintain a strong relationship with the local community in case of a disaster, officials said.

The Sagamihara disaster drill is an annual event for the city that takes place on the first Sunday of every September. Every emergency relief and disaster assistance organization within the city participates in order to raise awareness for disaster preparedness.

The drill was based on a scenario in which a 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck Sagamihara, and responses included rescue operations, decontamination efforts, and firefighting training. More than 1,200 personnel took part in the exercise.

"It is important to get all of the small [first-response] branches together and have a joint exercise like this," said Kunihiko Takanashi, chief of the Sagamihara City Risk Management Office. "The capabilities the U.S. Army has for disaster-relief response is very critical for Sagamihara citizens in the event of a disaster, and their assistance strengthens our ability to manage disasters. We are hoping to build on our good relationship with them."

U.S. Army Japan, or USARJ, had an information booth on site with the panels featuring photos from Operation Tomodachi and other rescue activities related to the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011, as well as a brief on a recently completed medical exercise at the Army's nearby Sagami General Depot. A Humvee was also on display to show the vehicle's many functions during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.

Soldiers assigned to USARJ's I Corp (Forward) and the 325th Combat Support Hospital from Missouri attended the event to interact with community members and hand out informative brochures.

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.

"Last year's agreement opened a door for us," said Maj. Randall Baucom, chief of USARJ Public Affairs. "It made for a better bilateral exchange with local governments, both in Sagamihara and Zama cities. This is to foster better cooperation and an understanding of each other's capabilities, and I think our participation in the disaster drill signifies the importance of the agreement and shows we are united in this partnership for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance."

USARJ are also participated in disaster drills in Zama City and at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Sept. 1, and with the Shizuoka Prefectural Government, Sept. 2.

"It was good to see the U.S. Army joining our local disaster drills, and I am eager to see them participate more in these kinds of drills," said Yuichi Enari, a Sagamihara citizen. "The U.S. Army is a very reliable partner and neighbor, especially in the event of a disaster, so I think we should maintain that good relationship and this training."