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Keen Sword 19: Historic First Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces Jump from USAF C-130Js in Japan

By Yasuo Osakabe | 374th Airlift Wing public affairs | Nov. 7, 2018

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 36th Airlift Squadron became the first U.S. aircraft to drop Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers on Hiju-dai drop zone, Oita prefecture, Japan, Nov. 4, 2018, during Keen Sword 2019.

The JGSDF soldiers with the 1st Airborne Brigade, observed by U.S. Army Alaska soldiers, jumped from the C-130J Super Hercules, showcasing one of Keen Sword 19’s capability to bring military power together to train.

“It is great that we are finally able to drop JGSDF paratroopers from U.S. aircraft in Japan,” said Capt. Jeffrey Larkin, 36 AS C-130J pilot and Keen Sword 19 C-130J mission commander. “Also this is the first time that we (36th AS) will fly over Hiju-dai drop zone. This is another exciting moment for us because we can fly in an atypical environment.”

Since 2015, 36 AS and JGSDF 1st Airborne Brigade have been conducting joint jump training during Red-Flag Alaska. With this historic first combined jump training in Japan, U.S. and Japanese Airmen and Soldiers hope that it will allow for more opportunities for future training and collaboration to strengthen bonds between the two nations.

“Working with the Japanese Airborne community increases bonds and friendships, and it also increases the understanding of the strategic value of both airborne communities,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Nathan Greer, U.S. Army Alaska jump master.

The jump highlighted the U.S.-Japan’s strong commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, but the aircraft was just one moving piece in a large-scale area seizure scenario during Keen Sword 19, the first of its kind during the exercise.

“We (36AS) delivered service members, between U.S. and Japan Self-Defense Forces, from Okinawa to Misawa,” said Larkin. “Also we conducted mass Container Delivery System (CDS) drops at Hiju-dai DZ (dropzone).”

The scenario: The prior-arrived 120 JGSDF paratroopers at the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) Tsuiki Air Base at Fukuoka prefecture conducted airdrop training from the U.S. C-130J aircraft at Hiju-dai exercise areas, Oita prefecture, located approximately 810km from Yokota AB.

“Everything was excellent.” said Greer. “As a Jump Master, they (JGSDF) jumped safely and accurately. This is most important thing for jumpers, and they were professionals during the airborne operation.”

Keen Sword gives U.S. and Japanese Forces an opportunity to practice critical air, maritime and amphibious capabilities essential for Japan’s defense and for regional security. Also the exercise is the latest in a series of bilateral field training exercises that for more than 30 years have increased combat readiness and interoperability between the U.S. and JSDF.

“The scenario gave us the opportunity to practice tactical airlift to deliver supplies and personnel at a moment’s notice.” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Gates, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J loadmaster. “Any joint training provides greater awareness of how U.S. military and JSDF train to prepare for future contingencies and it help us stay ready to provide joint support when we are called upon.”

Approximately 10,000 U.S. Forces members from the following units are participating in KS19, including U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Forces, Japan, 7th Fleet, 5th Air Force, 374th Airlift Wing, 18th Wing, 35th Fighter Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
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