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NEWS | Aug. 9, 2022

JED Engineers Participate in Bilateral Boat Race on Lake Miyagase

By Patrick Ciccarone U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan District

KANAGAWA, Japan -- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) - Japan District personnel accompanied Advanced Individual Training recruits from the Japan Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) 4th Engineer Group to Lake Miyagase for a training exercise on August 5th.

Trekking out to the body of water located between the Sagamihara and Atsugi areas of the Kanagawa prefecture, the joint-U.S. and Japanese team’s goal was to compete in a team-building exercise – one that comprised over 50 JGSDF soldiers, whose ages ranged from 18-35.

In true bi-lateral esprit-de-corps fashion, the 4th Engineer Group offered a boat race competition between their members and JED’s Engineer Soldiers to invigorate and motivate them during their expedition.

“This race gives our new recruits a great opportunity to work with each other and our U.S. Army partners,” said JGSDF Lt. Col. Yasuto Ito, the 4th Engineering Group’s deputy commander. “Although today was more lighthearted in nature, these recruits will eventually use their acquired skills for natural disaster responses and defending Japan.”

The battalion of JGSDF recruits stood single file, poised for the beginning of the event. JED’s Engineers on the opposite side of the shore, limbering-up for the immediate departure.

A nearby recruit, eyes focused on a clipboard and stopwatch, rocketed his hand upward and brought it down again with a chopping motion, indicating the start of the race.

Rolling seas of brown and green clothed recruits and soldiers, shouting at the top of their lungs sprinted toward their moored tokafune, or river-crossing boats, strategically seating their members within the crafts and readying their oars.

Within a span of 30-seconds, a total of 4 ships departed the shore toward a buoy located approximately one-half mile away.

The race was on.

Chanting in unison, the echoes of ‘one, two, one, two’ thundered throughout the lakefront from the ships of the JGSDF members as they quickly took the lead.

The JED Engineers were ultimately overtaken by the coordinated teamwork of the 4th Engineering Squadron AIT recruits and finished last.

“We had a lot of fun out there despite the loss,” said JED 1st Lt. Andrew Gilbert, a project engineer. “I value any opportunity to work together or have any interaction with our JGSDF partners, as I believe it furthers that bond we share.”

Although the JED team walked away with 4th place, the shared experience was a positive one, especially for one of JED’s newest leaders.

New to Japan and working with her bilateral partners, USACE JED deputy commander Maj. Chelsea O’Nan marveled at the coordination and teamwork displayed by the AIT recruits.

“The opportunity to participate with the 4th’s AIT members was great, as we were able to learn how their train on engineering tasks, and how we can better partner with them,” said O’Nan. “There are so many similarities between our Soldiers and their recruits, and you really get to see the love and passion they have for projects much like we have for ours.”

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