CAMP ZAMA, Japan –
About 3,500 U.S. Soldiers and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members recently participated in the Orient Shield 23 exercise to forge stronger bonds and increase interoperability.
The 10-day exercise, which ended Saturday and held by U.S. Army Pacific and the JGSDF, included bilateral field and command post training in Hokkaido, Okinawa and other locations across Japan.
“Our adversaries are watching,” said Maj. Gen. Dave Womack, commander of U.S. Army Japan. “They're watching our alliance. They are watching what we are doing to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific and it matters.”
Known as the largest annual field training exercise between the U.S. Army and JGSDF, this year’s Orient Shield allowed participants to further refine their respective multi-domain and cross-domain operations.
The pair of strategies place an emphasis on preparing for a new battlefield that could include information, space, cyber and electronic warfare.
Overall, the training scenario aimed to improve bilateral targeting processes ahead of a more complex scenario during Yama Sakura, a large-scale exercise slated for December.
The recent exercise, which is part of USARPAC’s Operation Pathways, also tested the reception, staging, onward-movement, and integration of U.S. forces deploying to Japan.
About 1,200 U.S. personnel stationed in the Indo-Pacific region as well as from Tennessee and Washington participated in this year’s iteration.
Units included the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division; 38th Air Defense Artillery Bde.; 35th ADA Bde.; 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion; 5th Bn., 20th Inf. Regiment, 7th Inf. Div.; 1st Bn., 181st Field Artillery Rgt., Tennessee National Guard; and the 1st Multi-Domain Task Force; along with personnel from the Joint Force and the JGSDF Northern Army.
Participants conducted various drills using the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, anti-tank missiles, mortars, and aviation and infantry capabilities, in addition to medical response training, logistical transport, and other sustainment operations.
U.S. Soldiers also had the opportunity to exchange ideas, tactics, techniques, and cultural information with their Japanese counterparts.
Each year, Orient Shield, which has been held since 1982, rotates among the five JGSDF regional armies. JGSDF Western Army conducted last year’s exercise that featured the implementation of the multi-domain and cross-domain operations by a bilateral force.
“The alliance between Japan and the United States has never been stronger,” said Gen. Charles A. Flynn, commander of USARPAC. “I am personally very thankful for the increased cooperation and the long-lasting friendship amongst the JGSDF and U.S. Army of the Pacific.”
Gen. Yasunori Morishita, chief of staff for the JGSDF, said that Japan must drastically strengthen its defense posture and its alliance with the U.S. Army.
“I would like to develop Japan and U.S. land forces’ interoperability further,” he said, “and work shoulder to shoulder on joint exercises and senior-level exchanges.”
Morishita, who watched some of the exercise in Hokkaido with Flynn, said he admired the robustness of both forces training together in the field.
“It is a great way to develop a relationship of trust between the Japan and U.S. land forces leadership …,” he said of the training, “and to obtain the idea for future defense cooperation.”
Flynn said he was excited about the potential of exploring new opportunities as their units continue to build on this training.
“We're collectively focusing more on strengthening deterrence and improving our response capabilities,” Flynn said.
“I am very proud of both the Japanese and American soldiers who've been working together hand in hand in this training,” he added. “They deserve all the credit for fostering a greater level of trust and interoperability that underpin our very special relationship.”