Northern Viper kicks off for the first time ever
By Lance Cpl. Andy Martinez, III Marine Expeditionary Force
HOKKAIDO, Japan -- For the first time, more than 2,000 U.S. Marines joined with approximately 1,500 service members with the Japan Self-Defense Force to support the first iteration of Exercise Northern Viper 2017, at Misawa Air Base and the island of Hokkaido, Japan, August 10-28, 2017.
Northern Viper, an annual joint contingency exercise, tests the interoperability and bilateral capability of the JSDF and U.S. Marine Corps forces to work together across a variety of areas including peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. This exercise enhances and improves interoperability at the tactical level between the Marines and JSDF to keep the forces formidable and adaptive. NV17 showcases a highly-capable, forward-deployed U.S. military presence positioned with their Japanese partners to directly support the security of the Indo-Asia- Pacific region.
“We have Marines with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Marines with 3rd Marine Division and the JSDF all currently together to train here,” said Col. James F. Harp, the commanding officer of MAG-36, 1st MAW. “This exercise is strategically shaping our relationship with Japan.”
U.S. Marines with Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing will provide direct aerial support to the Marines of 3rd Marine Division and JSDF with a variety of aircraft.
“The mission for 1st MAW Marines here is to have the opportunity to train outside of Okinawa,” said Maj. Eric M. Landblom, MAG-36 exercise operations officer. “The government of Japan allows us the freedom to come and train in other locations. We also have good partnerships with the Air Force and Navy installations to allow us to do this type of training.”
According to Landblom, the squadrons attached to 1st MAW will conduct various training operations, such as assault support missions, simulated offensive air support and simulated casualty evacuations in Hokkaido.
“We have ranges here that we don’t have in Okinawa,” said Sgt. Maj. Marvin M. Magcale, the group sergeant major for MAG-36. “We can utilize the ranges in Hokkaido in ways we couldn’t back in Okinawa. There are ranges nearby for our aircraft to train and conduct live fires by air.”
During the exercise, 3rd Marine Division mission will be on Hokkaido as the bilateral partner with JSDF’s Northern Army 11th Brigade, said Landblom.
“They will do functional training where they train to learn from each other,” said Landblom. “After, they will do comprehensive training, which we will take what they learned from each other and conduct a force on force operation where they work together to defeat a common enemy.”
Designed to integrate the U.S. Marine Corps with the JSDF, Northern Viper allows Marines to identify their weaknesses in order to avoid them in the future, making this exercise a valuable asset to maintaining readiness in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
“This exercise is extremely important because we have very limited opportunities to come together with our Japanese counterparts in a large scale to conduct this type of training,” said Harp. “We need to continue training like this to better protect the region from its adversaries.”