OKINAWA, Japan -- U.S. Forces, including III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) and Japan Self Defense Forces participated in Keen Edge 22, a bilateral command post exercise, from Jan. 27 through Feb. 3, 2022.
The annual event is part of an exercise series that improves interagency coordination, combat readiness and interoperability of all participants.
“One of the most important outcomes of Keen Edge was that interoperability and coordination between III Marine Expeditionary Force and the Japan Self Defense Force were taken to new levels,” said Lt. Gen. James W. Bierman, Commanding General, III MEF. “Despite many obstacles, III MEF and the Western Army proved their ability to plan and conduct complex multi-domain operations in defense of our shared interests.”
This U.S.-Japan exercise series alternates between field training exercises (i.e., Keen Sword) and command post exercises (i.e., Keen Edge). During Keen Edge 22, various Japanese and U.S. headquarters staffs employed computer simulations to practice responses in the event of a crisis or contingency.
III MEF conducted Keen Edge in its Battle Staff Training Facility (BSTF), a combat operations center, where MEF leadership exercised operational command and control.
“Keen Edge is an opportunity for our command and staff to gain a common understanding of the operational environment and identify gaps and seams in our coordination to truly leverage the combined strength of our forces,” said Maj. Paul Kozick, the III MEF Keen Edge 22 planning officer. “It will help inform our future exercises to increase our ability to rapidly share information relevant to the pace of operations.”
Within or from the BSTF, III MEF, Western Army, 7th Fleet and other joint force leaders and staff conducted bilateral and joint planning and coordination in order to execute command and control throughout the exercise’s operations area. These efforts extended to mainland Japan, Hawaii, California and Washington. Japanese and U.S. headquarters staff employed computer simulations to practice responses to various crises and contingencies.
“The technology used during this exercise depicts a scenario as real as possible, giving the joint forces a chance to respond as we would in a real life crisis,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Ethridge, a Battle Center Watch Clerk for the exercise. “Computer simulations during Keen Edge include amphibious landings, missile strikes, air support, and legal practices of Joint Force operations.”
By strengthening the interoperability between III MEF and JSDF, the U.S. and Japan sustain their ability to seize territory threatened by an adversary, defend key maritime terrain, and establish expeditionary advanced bases for follow-on operations.
“Working with our host nation forces affords us the opportunity to put our heads together and share what we know to help each other improve,” said Ethridge. “Exercises like Keen Edge help all parties involved understand each other’s capabilities while finding the best way to support.”
With more than 27,000 active duty U.S. military joint forces personnel stationed in Okinawa, the U.S. has an enduring commitment to the defense of Japan. The Alliance between the U.S. is strong because of close and constant engagements at all levels.
“Bilateral coordination is hard; there are language barriers, different cultural paradigms, different systems and equipment,” said Kozick. “The only way to overcome that is through our will to communicate and establish habitual relationships.”
The exercise also ensures U.S. Forces alongside the JSDF remain a credible deterrent in this increasingly contested environment by ensuring close and constant engagement are maintained at all levels between both nations.
“The Western Army has demonstrated a significant level of rigor, professionalism and the seriousness of these exercises, as well as the implications of protecting their homeland,” said Kozick. “We are forward deployed with the JSDF, and we are here with them in defense of their nation.”
“Ultimately, Keen Edge was a powerful expression of the continuing strength and relevancy of the U.S.-Japan Alliance, which is the cornerstone of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific and promotes regional stability and prosperity,” said Bierman.