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U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Justin Urbany (Right,) 81mm mortar section leader, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, gives a range safety brief to Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Soldiers, prior to a live-fire mortar range, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 1, 2016. This mortar range is a part of the second of four phases of training the soldiers of the JGSDF and USMC will be conducting during Exercise Iron Fist. This phase focuses on small unit skills and tactics before moving on to larger scale operations.

Photo by Cpl. Garrett White

JGSDF shoot 81mm mortars, impress Pendleton Marines

4 Feb 2016 | Cpl. Garrett White 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

U.S. Marines and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Soldiers conducted a live-fire mortar range aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb 1, 2016.

The training event was a part of Exercise Iron Fist, the largest bilateral exercise conducted by I Marine Expeditionary Force, which is aimed at improving the combined amphibious operation capabilities of the U.S. and Japan.

“The goal is to conduct basic fire training in preparation for the live-fire training scheduled at Twentynine Palms,” said JGSDF Maj. Tomotake Nagamura, company commander with the Western Army Infantry Regiment.

Throughout the day’s training event JGSDF soldiers established their mortar and observation positions, acquired their targets, and dropped quick and accurate indirect-fire on top of them.

Nagamura explained, that in order for infantry units to conduct fire and maneuver, it is important to coordinate accurate fire in accurate timeframes making this kind of training extremely important.

While the JGSDF soldiers conduct similar training in their home nation, the range aboard Camp Pendleton offers a new environment for them to test their skills.
“One of the most beneficial factors of this training area is that compared to Japan, our forward observers were able to observe [targets] over a much greater distance,” said Nagamura. “Just as we have conducted similarly in our home country, we believe we were able to accomplish the same kind of training in a quick and efficient manner [at Camp Pendleton].”

While the Marines at the range were acting as safety officers and not actively participating in the training, it still allowed them to observe and learn from the allied nation.

“It was a lot of fun to watch these guys,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Owens, 81mm mortar platoon commander, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. “They are very proficient, very impressive, very organized, and you can tell each of them knows their jobs very, very well and it was a real privilege to watch them today.”
As a part of the first phase of training events for Exercise Iron Fist, the skills shared at this exercise will be built upon in larger-scale training events conducted by the U.S. Marines and JGSDF soldiers in the second and third phases of Iron Fist.

“This is also important so the United States Marine Corps, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force can establish trust between each other’s skills,” added Nagamura.

Over the course of Exercise Iron Fist, JGSDF soldiers and U.S. Marines of all ranks and occupations will be able to share their skills and abilities with one another to strengthen bonds between the two militaries.

“It’s all about relationships,” said Owens. “As long as we keep strong relationships with our allies [and] learn how they train, they get to see how we train [and] we can become a stronger team. We are always trying to learn … we all have our own tactics, techniques and procedures that make us good at our jobs, and we will be looking to incorporate some of the things they did here today to make us better at what we do. ”​

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