PHILIPPINE SEA –
The amphibious dock landing ship, USS Germantown (LSD 42) and the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion (AAB), 2nd Marine Division (MARDIV), operated with Japanese Self Defense Forces (JSDF) during exercise Keen Sword, Nov. 11-12.
Keen Sword is a bilateral amphibious training exercise conducted with JSDF designed to increase combat readiness and interoperability.
"This is an opportunity to allow the Japanese military see how we operate and for us to learn from them too," said Lt. Jesse Rond, Germantown's combat information center officer. "What makes this unique is that it focuses on improving the relationship we have with the Japanese in a lasting way."
This portion of the exercise kicked off with service members from JSDF being flown over on a Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) CH-47 Chinook, for a tour of Germantown. This allowed Sailors and Marines to engage with members of JSDF and show them a variety of the ship's systems and capabilities. This included a tour of the well deck, the weapons systems, the bridge, the boat deck and the wardroom. Members of the JSDF participated in a Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) drill and had an opportunity to drive amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) in the well deck.
"Next year we will have AAV's, so we have learned a lot on how to operate and maintain them," said Col. Yoshiyuki Goto, assigned to the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF). "Having this ability will help synchronize our sea and land operations."
The main goal of Germantown's participation with JSDF is to practice tactics, techniques and procedures with Japanese forces to strengthen amphibious warfare and to help the JSDF build their developing amphibious forces.
"We showed the JGSDF everything that goes into tactically planning an amphibious assault from the logistical and maintenance procedures to how to operate them," said Marine 2nd Lt. Jeffrey Horwitz, the platoon commander for the 2nd AAB, 2nd MARDIV. "This is important because it shows them how to use AAVs not only in a war time environment but also for humanitarian efforts."
Members of JGSDF were given a brief that included the planning and execution of an AAV assault as well as the basics of how the machines operated. Following the brief, each member of the JGSDF drove an AAV for the first time in the ship's well deck.
"I was the one who explained how the tracks of the AAVs worked," said Marine Sgt. John Vloyanetes. "They were really eager to learn. They were interested in what the AAVs could do and what we can do to help them. It was a great opportunity, and I learned a lot about the Japanese culture and how to work with language barriers."
The final exercise of the day was a simulated MEDEVAC drill that included a CH-47 Chinook helicopter landing on the flight deck with two patients that had simulated injuries.
"We participated in a simulated medical evacuation with the JSDF and had a helicopter land on Germantown with two patients on stretchers as well as a Japanese surgeon," said U.S. Navy Doctor Lt. Erik Johnson, the ship's general medicine officer. "Then we all worked together to get the patients inside the skin of the ship, were I worked in conjunction with the Japanese physician to provide care. We don't have a lot of opportunities for us to communicate with the Japanese on the medical side so this was a great experience to see how their medical field works."
Keen Sword is the latest in a series of joint exercises since 1986 between the U.S. military and JSDF to help enhance cooperation and unity between the two countries in the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
"As strong as we are as a Navy, we can be even stronger if we can collaborate efficiently with other military forces," said Rond. "Both sides learning each other's cultures and capabilities is the best way to break down boundaries and help us come together as a cohesive unit."
Keen Sword will run until Nov. 19, and will include approximately 11,000 U.S. personnel and will continue to take place in a variety of locations throughout Japan, Okinawa and the waters surrounding Japan.
"Even though the Americans and the Japanese have a different history and culture, learning together helps us make great progress for the future," said Goto. "We have adapted to work side by side and that is the strong point of our two nations."
Germantown is part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group, commanded by Capt. Heidi Agle, and is conducting joint forces exercises in the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility