KUMAMOTO, Japan -- Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members and U.S. Marines closed out Forest Light 15-1 with a ceremony Dec. 12 at Camp Kita Kumamoto in Kumamoto, Kumamoto prefecture, Japan.
Forest Light is a routine, semi-annual exercise designed to enhance the U.S. and Japan military partnership, solidify regional security agreements and improve individual and unit-level skills.
During the exercise, elements of 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program, completed bilateral training with the 42nd Regiment, 8th Division, Western Army, JGSDF, Dec. 1-12 in the Oyanohara Training Area of Yamato, Kumamoto prefecture, Japan.
“I think the last two weeks have gone very well for 2/9 and the 42nd Regiment,” said U.S. Marine Maj. Roy M. Draa, the executive officer of 2nd Bn., 9th Marines. “We’ve both came a long way in the last week at understanding how the Japanese work and also the Japanese understanding our doctrine and our tactics, techniques and procedures that are based off of 14 years of combat.”
The exercise included several training events and live-fire ranges, enhancing interoperability of Japan-U.S. forces while focusing on helping the Western Army stand up an amphibious brigade, according to Draa, from Baltimore, Maryland.
“One of the most exciting things about what we’ve been doing here is we also spent two days at Western Army Headquarters with their amphibious working groups,” said Draa. “In the Western Army, they’re going to be standing up an amphibious brigade, so a lot of the headway that we made with 42nd Regiment, my hope is that we can translate that directly to 3rd Marine Division and 8th Division working together on a regular basis.”
In addition to the training that occurred throughout the exercise, there was an emphasis placed on the sharing of culture, strengthening the bond between the two nations and creating a bright future for the Japan-U.S. alliance, according to JGSDF Lt. Gen. Tetsuro Yamanoue, the commanding general of 8th Division.
“We prepared a lot of culture exchange programs so that the Marines can learn our culture,” said Yamanoue. “I think it is very important to tell you about our culture so that you can understand us and how we live our lives.”
For many of the Marines, this was their first opportunity to work with the JGSDF and it was a special opportunity, according to U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Salvador Waterstradt, a rifleman with the battalion.
“This was my first time working with the Japanese,” said Waterstradt, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “It was great to see their tactics, techniques and procedures and practice ours with them. We had a great time with the Japanese and made a lot of friendships and alliances with them.”
Forest Light demonstrates the continued commitment of the U.S. and Japan to increase interoperability of our armed forces and maintain a strong partnership to protect Japan from external aggression.
“I’m pretty sure that we have achieved the purpose of this training, which is to enhance interoperability and strengthen the bond between the U.S. Marines and JGSDF,” said Yamanoue. “I believe that our members and the U.S. Marines now have a very great friendship.”