December 2nd, 2014 -- A field and an abandoned structure sustain an unknown, potentially dangerous, contamination leak. U.S. Marines and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force service members hastily suit up in Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear in preparation for their mission. They rushed off to the contaminated zone to save lives and contain the leak, requiring both units to work together to accomplish their mission.
The simulated mission afforded the Marines and JGSDF the opportunity to show each other their capabilities for containing a leak. The decontamination process for both groups was similar despite having different overall mission objectives.
“At first I thought it was going to be difficult to work with them because of the language barrier,” said Lance Cpl. Maria I. Olguin, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialist with CBRN Unit, Headquarters Regiment, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Whenever you are in a suit it is already difficult to communicate, so we used a lot of hand signals and gestures making it a lot smoother than I anticipated.”
The experience of working alongside the JGSDF continuously in the Pacific is a unique opportunity for Marines assigned to III MEF, the only forward deployed MEF in the Marine Corps, allowing its Marines to experience working up close and personal with their allies.
“I am glad I was a part of this experience because I saw a lot of their culture and mannerisms,” said Olguin, from Montrose, Colorado. “They may have had different equipment than us, but it was interesting to see (their equipment) and their capabilities.”
The experience of working alongside the nation’s allies is a key focus for the CBRN Marines. It allows them to better know the capabilities of the JGSDF, so in a real situation they are able to work closely with one another.
“Being out here with III MEF gives us a lot of opportunities to work with the Japanese,” said Warrant Officer Michael P. Cronkhite, the deputy CBRN defense officer for HQ Regiment, 3rd MLG, III MEF. “It gives our Marines more of an understanding then just the Marine Corps and the U.S. capabilities. It shows them how we tie into and compliment their abilities in these environments.”
The JGSDF’s mission is an overall decontamination process focused more on the environment and mass decontamination of personnel. The Marines’ main focus is on the military side of decontamination operations.
“We have three main jobs to do during this training; reconnaissance, detection, and casualty evacuation, so this is very important because of our differences,” said JGSDF Maj. Toshiyuki Aso, the commanding officer for Nuclear Biological Chemical Unit, 15th Brigade. “The way we recon and decontamination is different, so it really is a good way for us to learn from each other and our joint capabilities.”
This bilateral training is key in building trust between the two nations to allow for smoother operations in the case of natural disasters and manmade disasters involving chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear elements.
“We know each other’s capabilities,” said Aso. “From now on, we need to know each other more and more to be able to communicate and work effectively in a real-world environment. We hope to continue on this joint study in the future.”