CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Oct. 3, 2012) -- More than 60 Japanese firefighters from Sagamihara City took part in an exercise hosted by U.S. Army Garrison Japan that was meant to foster a strong bilateral relationship between the two organizations and enhance their fire protection and response operations.

The exercise, which was held Sept. 26 through 28 at nearby Sagami General Depot, provided both groups of firefighters the opportunity to exchange training methods and survey each other's respective operational capabilities in case of a fire.

"After 'Operation Tomodachi' in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, we gained a better understanding of our capabilities in regard to rescue operations within the local communities," said Yuji Kumamaru, deputy chief of the U.S. Army Garrison Japan Fire Department "We have now begun to establish closer and stronger communication with local firefighters."

The exercise was held over the course of three days so that all of the firefighters from several nearby departments could attend. Represented at the exercise along with USAG-J were the Sagamihara City Fire Dept.'s Headquarter Incident Command Unit, the Sagamihara City Headquarter Fire Company, the Fuchinobe Fire Department's Fire Co., and the Sagamihara North Fire Co.

A briefing on the USG-J Fire Dept. was provided for exercise attendees, the content of which included information on the water supply on U.S. Army installations in Japan and their fire-suppression equipment. The briefing pointed out some of the differences in the equipment used by Army firefighters in comparison to their city counterparts, such as their fire trucks, water supply distribution systems and their hydrants.

"The main purpose [of this exercise] is to understand each other more as neighbors, and to have an opportunity for face-to-face communication, which is important in the event of an emergency in this area," said Kumamaru. "Our goal is to build an efficient support system for each other."

After the briefing, the group took a tour of the water supply station and fire hydrants at Sagami Depot. Later, a joint hose relay operation was conducted by the firefighters, during which they connected hoses from their fire trucks and extinguished a controlled blaze.

The USAG-J Fire Dept. hosted a similar drill for their Zama City counterparts the previous week. The Garrison firefighters plan to visit local fire departments and receive similar briefings on their counterparts' equipment and operations in the near future, said Kumamaru.

"This joint training between us and the U.S. Army is important training to perform in case of a fire disaster," said Kazuyuki Kodama, chief of the Sagamihara City Fire Dept.'s Incident Command Unit. "It's a good opportunity to learn about some of the differences [in our operations]. These learning experiences also motivate our firefighters."