OKINAWA, Japan -- The 3D Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) and the Japan Ground Self Defense Force’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) wrapped up Yama Sakura 81in multiple locations Dec. 12, 2021. Yama Sakura is an annual training exercise that focuses on the defense of Japan with bilateral planning, coordination, and interoperability between the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force and U.S. military units, including 3d MEB and the U.S. Army’s I Corps. The exercise highlights the continued commitment by both the United States and Japan to enhance American and Japanese combat readiness and integration while strengthening bilateral relationships.
The 3d MEB participated in the exercise from Camp Courtney, in Okinawa Japan, as well as from Camp Ainoura, the ARDB’s base in the Nagasaki prefecture, showcasing distributed command and control at significant distance. The exercise brought reinforcements together from all corners of III Marine Expeditionary Force’s major supporting elements. Marines from 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, 3d Marine Logistics Group, 3d Marine Division, and III MEF Information Group provided their expertise and experience in order to support command and control across a large area of operations in the exercise.
“This is my first time working with the MEB, and it’s given me a better understanding of how fire support coordination works at the joint level.” said Sgt. Colton Dexter, a fire support Marine and joint terminal air controller with 5th Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, III MIG. “There is a lot of communication and de-conflicting that has to take place before we can decide how best to support the forces in the fight. And you have to do it quick. Every second counts.”
“Exercises like Yama Sakura really put that into perspective,” Dexter continued. “I’ve only been stationed in Okinawa for a few months, but the 3D MEB has been a great learning experience. I have been fortunate to see firsthand how strong and effective our relationship is with our Japanese partners.”
“I’ve learned an incredible amount of information about all the other sections and how they work together,” said First Lt. William Webster, an air support control officer with Marine Air Support Squadron 2, 1st MAW. “In Yama Sakura I worked in the Direct Air Support Center where we were responsible for pulling information from logistics, intel and fires in order to de-conflict air space and decide how best to support the forces.”
“The ‘real-world’ aspect of the scenario put our presence here in the Indo-Pacific into perspective,” Webster continued. “It allowed for every Marine at every level to be a decision maker. Our input for the commanding general painted a better picture that allowed him to make the best decision for any given situation.”
“I’m currently attached to the MEB, and this is my first command post exercise,” said Lance Cpl. Elizabeth Macris, an intelligence specialist with 3d MEB’s intelligence section. “I was responsible for tracking all the reports from various units and updating the information, giving the commanding general the ability to make the best, informed decision.”
The 3D MEB’s combat operations center brings the Marine Air Ground Task Force’s warfighting functions together in one place, allowing for quick communication and the dissemination of information.
“There was a lot of collaboration between the different sections in the COC,” Macris said. “It was interesting to see everything come together from ‘controlled chaos.’ Because of all the different sections that were involved, I was able to learn a lot about how the MAGTF works.”
The U.S.-Japan Alliance has served as a foundation for regional peace and security for more than 70 years allowing the United States and Japan to forge a relationship built on a shared vision of peace, prosperity, democracy and regional stability. Yama Sakura 81 is essential to maintaining peace and security in Japan and the Indo-Pacific region. Our two forces support a free and open Indo-Pacific united by shared values, interests, and commitment to mutual security.