Japan, U.S. military train, garner understanding

| August 7, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by Staff Sgt. Crista Yazzie, U.S. Army-Pacific Public Affairs

Lt. Col. Mark Leszczak, U.S. Army 1st Corps intelligence planner, and Maj. Satoshi Yokoyama, Japan Ground Self Defense Force, Western Army intelligence officer, discuss possible actions during Yama Sakura 58, a staff planning exercise held annually in Hawaii. The joint bilateral exercise gives participants an opportunity to work together as one team, communicating and planning with counterparts. FORT SHAFTER — U.S. and Japanese military leaders found common ground during Yama Sakura 58, an annual bilateral joint staff exercise hosted here, July 20-25, by the U.S. Army-Pacific Contingency Command Post.
With USARPAC CCP acting as higher command, U.S. Army I Corps led the planning and preparation exercise this year with Japan’s Ground Self Defense Force’s Western Army as counterpart. The mid-planning conference prepared participants for YS59, a staff exercise that occurs annually in Japan.
“This week, we accomplished several different things,” said Lt. Col. Paul Carroll, I Corps, officer in charge of YS58. “First, we put together a plan to house and operate a bilateral deployment in Japan, thus providing an opportunity to deploy I Corps headquarters forward to operate in a bilateral environment and train with our Western Army partners.”
Secondly, Carroll said, it provided an opportunity to interact with our Western Army counterparts, making lasting friendships that will take us through the final part of the exercise.
“We went to a luau together, we ran up Diamond Head together the following morning, and that’s the sort of situation that builds these relationships, so that when exercise friction happens, you have that background of both being professional Soldiers and having a personal relationship … and that is priceless,” Carroll said.
Part of the planning conference is dedicated to actual setting, such as figuring what the tactical operations center layout will be and who will be manning response cells, including details of everything from electronic connectivity to names and numbers of actual troops involved. Another part of the MPC is planning for internal operations of the exercise itself.
Also involved are the U.S. Marine Corps’ 3rd Marine Expeditionary Unit, based in Okinawa; the Japanese Air Force; and Japanese Maritime Staff Office.
“This is the biggest staff exercise between the U.S. military and Japanese military, and it is a good chance for improving interoperability between Japan and the U.S,” said Lt. Col. Hironobu Tanaka, exercise operations planning officer, JGSDF Grand Staff Office. “My counterparts are from the USARPAC CCP, and there are some language barriers and differences, but so far, we have gotten over these challenges. This face-to-face interoperability is the first step.”
Lt. Col. Adam Lange, chief, future operations, USARPAC CCP, expressed similar sentiments.
“One of the invaluable things that happened during this exercise is the Japanese presented to us their plan for defense in the exercise. It’s important to see it from our counterpart’s point of view, and so there have been a lot of great discussions that have come out of that,” he said.
This year’s exercise is the first for I Corps since returning from a recent deployment to Iraq.
According to Carroll, I Corps was involved in many previous iterations of the YS exercise prior to the deployment, most recently YS55 in 2007.
“It’s a great opportunity for I Corps, after a one-year deployment to Iraq, to come back and be heavily involved in the Pacific theater,” Carroll said.
Lt. Col. Hideto Fukamizu, chief, Yama Sakura, explained how the Western Army area of operation, which includes mainly Kyushu and several islands, makes the joint aspect of the exercise more pertinent this year.
“The Western Army portion is important because our area is the border to several countries,” Fukamizu said. “Also, for this exercise, we are joining Japanese Air Force and Navy participants. It is a joint operation because the Western Army has many islands, and we cannot conduct operations without their help.”
Most of the individuals participating in YS58 will be working together again for YS59.
“This is a very important step toward YS59. The concepts are decided here, so the success of YS59 depends on this planning conference,” Tanaka said.

Category: Exercises, News, Training

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