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NEWS | July 12, 2021

Exercise Orient Shield Breaks Boundaries

By Maj. Elias Chelala U.S. Army Japan

CAMP ITAMI, Japan – U.S. Army Japan facilitated the deployment of over 1,600 Soldiers and hundreds of pieces of equipment from the continental United States to multiple training locations throughout Japan from June 7 to July 10 as part of exercise Orient Shield 21-2. This was the largest number of troops and pieces of equipment deployed to Japan in support of an Army exercise since the COVID-19 pandemic and included numerous forms of integrated transportation including the synchronization of air, ground, and maritime assets.

OS21-2 is the largest U.S. Army and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force bilateral field training exercise (FTX) in Japan that included training participants from the 40th Infantry Division, 1st Battalion 28th Infantry Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade – SFAB, and JGSDF Middle, Northern and Western Armies.

Before the start of the exercise, the USNS Fisher with Military Sealift Command delivered over 150 pieces of equipment, including aircraft and ground vehicles to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni marking the first time an LMSR (large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off) has ever docked in mainland Japan.

“During this year’s exercise, we will jointly enhance our combat readiness and test, and refine our interoperability during multi-domain operations,” said Maj. Gen. Laura Yeager, commander, 40th Infantry Division, during opening ceremony remarks. “We will also be working together to increase our skill in using intelligence to support bilateral targeting and sensor to shooter operations.”

Yeager’s infantry division successfully deployed several hundred national guardsmen from California to Sagami General Depot, Japan, where they had to undergo a two-week restriction-of-movement and COVID-19 testing prior to the opening ceremony on June 24. Since its inception in 1982, Orient Shield has evolved from a battalion-level FTX into a division-level bilateral combined FTX and command post exercise (CPX).

Highly qualified members from the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade’s intelligence and fires advisors provided support to the JGSDF and 40th ID as part of the CPX also marking the first utilization of the SFAB during a bilateral exercise in Japan.
“During Orient Shield, our ability to operate was greatly enhanced through close coordination in a bilateral fire direction center,” said Maj. Wesley Martin, battalion executive officer, 1-94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade. This command post served to facilitate rapid sharing of crucial information to include targets, battle damage reports, and synchronization of position areas for launchers.”

For the first time ever a U.S. Army High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and JGSDF Multiple Launch Rocket System conducted bilateral live fire in Japan. This would not have been possible without the bilateral Fire Direction Center, which ensured the forces to successfully execute and launch 12 fire missions at Yausubetsu Training Area in Hokkaido.

“This was extremely helpful for the Soldiers and members of both forces to gain personal experience and mutual understanding of partnered force operations,” said Martin. “The terrain at Yausubetsu Training Area represented a new opportunity to refine basic skills at the section and platoon-level with the added challenge of safely and successfully live firing over three days.”

In the Southern Island-Chain of Japan, the U.S. Marine Corps vessel USNS Guam transported critical cargo and passengers with 1-1 Air Defense Artillery Battalion from Naha Port, Okinawa to Amami Island. This was also the first time a Minimum Engagement Package, U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) and JGSDF Type O3 Chu-SAM got to train together on integrated air and missile defense in an Anti-Access Area Denial scenario on Camp Amami.

“Here at Camp Amami, a JGSDF mid-range surface to air missile unit and a U.S. Patriot missile unit are conducting bilateral air defense training,” said Gen. Yoshihide Yoshida, chief of staff, JGSDF. “The security environment surrounding Japan has become increasingly severe. Whatever happens, the Japan-U.S. land component will cooperate closely to enhance deterrent and operational capability and contribute to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region.”

During his visit to Amami, Yoshida also held a bilateral press conference with Brig. Gen. JB Vowell, commander, U.S. Army Japan. Together, the two answered several questions from nearly 20 Japanese reporters while the PAC-3 and Chu-SAM were in an elevated position in the background.

“This exercise symbolizes that this partnership, this friendship, between the Armies of the U.S. and Japan is ironclad,” said Vowell. “Our adversaries do not have anything like this important relationship. They know that going forward together as Allies is our greatest strength. In terms of military competition, I think we are winning together every day.”

OS21-2 strengthened U.S. Army and JGSDF interoperability and demonstrated both countries commitments to the U.S.-Japan alliance and the security of the Indo-Pacific region.

Back in JGSDF Middle Army’s area of operations, the 1st Battalion 28th Infantry Regiment “Black Lions,” 3rd Infantry Division, trained alongside the JGSDF 15th Rapid Deployment Regiment to showcase their maneuver tactics and techniques at Aibano Training Area. This was the first time the 3rd ID participated in exercise Orient Shield and the units were successfully able to execute bilateral Air Assault, Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT), medical evacuation, and mortar training.

Also at Aibano, members from the 340th Chemical Company trained with the 14th and 102nd Nuclear Biological Chemical units where they responded to a scenario of U.S. Forces being attacked by a drone carrying sarin gas. After quickly identifying the cause, they had to perform causality evacuation and decontamination procedures. The 102nd and 14th will go on to support the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics where they will stand ready to respond to any contingency.

Additionally, OS21-2 had bilateral aviation training at Camp Akeno, where 2-6 Cavalry Squadron, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, was integrated into U.S. Army Aviation Battalion-Japan under Task Force Ninja. Its forward-deployed AH-64 Apache helicopters were able to conduct aviation operations in support of the exercise with JGSDF Middle Army Aviation Group allowing bilateral flight formations to include U.S. UH-60s, and JGSDF AH-1s and CH-47s.

Soldiers and JGSDF members were also exposed to multiple unique geographical training environments like the guard and protect mission at Kyogamisaki Communications Site between the 8th Military Police Brigade and JGSDF MA, 7th Infantry Regiment.

“Orient Shield 21 is our most important and our largest event together,” said Vowell. “It highlights our commitments to assuring our Partners and Allies while deterring our potential adversaries from unwarranted aggression.”

This was the largest demonstration by USARJ in support of U.S. Army Pacific to project theater Army land power to Japan, which certainly paved the way for the exercise to evolve and experiment in future iterations.

OS21-2 demonstrated that the U.S. Army and JGSDF could execute multi-domain and cross-domain operations throughout Japan that included live, virtual, and constructive aspects of bilateral targeting, lethal long-range precision fires, guard and protect missions, chemical response training, joint watercraft system movement, aviation operations, and integrated air defense capabilities.
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