NEWS | Dec. 18, 2019

Yama Sakura 77 Draws to a Close

By Spc. John Weaver

TOKYO, Japan -- After months of planning and communication, and a long week of combined effort and 24-hour operations, hundreds of America's First Corps and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force service members met in the band square for the Yama Sakura 77 closing ceremony at Camp Asaka, Japan, Dec. 15, 2019.

Throughout the exercise, the two nations worked hand-in-hand through real-time simulated scenarios, replicating a multi-domain and cross-domain operation and enhancing combat readiness and interoperability.

Lt. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, I Corps commanding general, began the ceremony by applauding the many successes shared by the JGSDF and America's First Corps, thanking both forces for their diligence and perseverance.

"We have shown over the past week that no enemy can stand against us if we fight together," Volesky said. "There were many accomplishments shared by our forces during this exercise, including many that have never been done before."

YS 77 marks the first time U.S. operations were able to coordinate for indirect fire support from the Eastern Army, as well as the first time JGSDF and U.S. forces were able to combine air assets to attack the same target. This, and many more bilateral firsts, led Volesky to declare this year's exercise as "the best Yama Sakura I've had the opportunity to participate in, over the last three years."

It has been an honor and privilege to fight alongside you as allies and brothers in arms," Volesky added. "You should all be proud of your many accomplishments. I know America's First Corps is better for having worked alongside your team."

Following up on his opening ceremony request for both nations to work together to accomplish their shared objective and deepen their mutual understanding, Lt. Gen. Takayuki Onozuka, commanding general of the JGSDF Eastern Army, thanked participants for exceeding his wildest expectations over the course of the week.

"The trust between Japan and the U.S. has deepened through this exercise," Onozuka said. "I know I will treasure this Yama Sakura experience."

Since 1982, Yama Sakura exercises have highlighted the strong bond between the two nations and U.S. support of allies within the Indo-Pacific region, and Onozuka encouraged both forces to remain committed to this shared objective.

"The Japan and U.S. alliance continues to play a significant role in regional, as well as global, peace and stability," he said. "I would like to conclude by wishing for an ever-strengthening bond between our two nations."