AIBANO TRAINING AREA, Japan (Nov. 6, 2012) -- Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, along with Japan Ground Self Defense Force members from the 33rd Infantry Regiment, 10th Division, Middle Army, attended a ceremony that closed the 13th iteration of Orient Shield, a bilateral training exercise taking place at Aibano Training Area, Shiga Prefecture, Japan, Nov 7.Orient Shield is designed to enhance interoperability between U.S. and Japanese units at the lowest level, emphasizing combat readiness of both forces while strengthening their relationship.Nearly 1,000 Soldiers andJapan Ground Self Defense Force, or JGSDF, members gathered on the parade field at Aibano Training Area in military fashion, standing in tight, disciplined formations. During the ceremony, the commanders of both units exchanged gifts and addressed the Soldiers and JGSDF members in attendance.Col. Koji Furuya, commander of the 33rd Regiment, said he appreciated the Soldiers who participated in the bilateral exercise for their great effort during the last two weeks of training."I'm certain that this bilateral exercise has helped to make the U.S.-Japan alliance stronger," said Furuya. "Through training and events it appears that all U.S. and Japan Soldiers actively worked together to communicate and to overcome differences. Through this bilateral exercise, mutual understanding of tactics and communication were deepened, which allowed us to enrich our ability and to establish the foundation for smooth bilateral operation. I have no doubt that the 33rd Combat Team and the 1-14th Battalion have built a relationship to fight and win together."Col. Jonathan Larsen, commander of the 1-14th Infantry, said the exchange was beneficial for the security of both regions."Over the last two weeks we have increased the security of our great nations," Larsen said. "Our Soldiers shared difficult training situations, and we increased our respect for each other, and our commitment to those nations and the people of the world. It is by forming partnerships at all levels, from the individual Soldier to the highest units in our forces that we will ensure continued security."U.S. Soldiers and JGSDF members exchanged information over the last two weeks, learning about each other's tactics, techniques and capabilities, including vehicles, weapons, and other equipment. The 2nd Stryker BCT deployed Strykers to Japan for the first time since the vehicle's introduction the to U.S. Army. Orient Shield concluded with a bilateral field training exercise, which encompassed all tasks and topics trained on during the functional phase of training."Over the last two weeks, we have seen some significant changes all around us," Larsen said. "Our Soldiers have come alive with a better understanding and appreciation for each other. We still don't speak the same language, and we still come from very different backgrounds, but we are similar in our minds. And that has allowed us to make friendships and memories that will last us a lifetime."