By Sgt. William JonesDecember 11, 2012
SENDAI, Japan - Supporting soldiers on the battlefield is no easy task and the logistical requirements to outfit a combat troop to effectively do his or her job is done by far fewer soldiers than those on the battlefield. Consider the U.S. Army's 35th Combat Sustainment Support Brigade in Sagami General Depot, Japan.
The ratio of soldier to support personnel is far from equal at the bilateral training exercise known as Yama Sakura 63. The 35th CSSB deployed to Camp Sendai and they are not only successfully operating a dining facility and a mailroom, they are also operating an admin section, communications section and a small post exchange... all with less than 50 active duty soldiers in support of over 800 personnel - that's one logistical soldier for every 16 soldiers participating in the exercise.
Command Sgt. Maj. Ron J. Joshua, 35th CSSB senior enlisted leader, has attended the last two Yama Sakura training exercises, but this is not his first visit to this region of Japan. He was here last year just days after the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that very nearly washed the eastern countryside out into the sea in a matter of moments. He and his fellow soldiers went to work aiding their local counterparts to help the people in this region recover from one of the worst natural disasters to strike Japan in recent memory.
"After the big eastern earthquake and the subsequent tsunami, we deployed up to Sendai International Airport," Joshua said.
Joshua said the unit stayed there for about three weeks as part of the first humanitarian assistance program the unit participated in the country of Japan. Once at the Sendai International Airport, the unit fell in with some sister services.
"We just fell in on a directive to provide support for the people of Sendai. Pretty much we just moved a lot of debris from the Sendai International Airport. We initially deployed with about 45 soldiers, give or take, and then we increased it up to about 85. We stayed there for about three weeks. We moved about 3,000 damaged cars, and we cleaned up tons and tons of rubbish. We actually lived in the [Sendai International Airport] terminal for three weeks."
Joshua and the other service members left Sendai to continue the mission headed north from Sendai. It was not until Yama Sakura 63 that the unit returned to Sendai nearly 21 months after the devastating natural disaster hit the region. Joshua visited the airport last week and could not believe what he found there.
"I was just at the airport yesterday. I walked into the airport, and it brought back a lot of memories and I can't believe this. It was only 21 months ago. I cannot believe this. And the only way you can tell (how much they've recovered) is if you weren't here during the tsunami you would never know," he said.
In less than two years, there is virtually no sign of damage and the airport has reopened and international flights arrive and depart there today. In fact, there is little damage to be found almost everywhere in the region. Joshua credits this to Japanese work ethic and their ability to bounce back.
Training exercises like Yama Sakura give American soldiers not only an opportunity to train, it also gives them an opportunity to learn through experience how other cultures handle difficult situations. It is through these cultural exchanges that soldiers not only learn about other people, but they also learn about themselves.
"What can Americans learn from the Japanese," Joshua asked? "Resilience... how you jump back from diversity. Think about what you do before you do it. That's what [the Japanese] do. They take it all in, they assess it, they discuss it, they make a decision, and they stick to it. I've never seen anything like it...very resilient."