CAMP ASAKA, Japan –
For the 34th time, U.S. and Japanese Soldiers stood side-by-side to kick off Japan's largest command post exercise here, today.
Yama Sakura 67 officially started with a brief ceremony in which commanders from I Corps and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's Eastern Army lauded the long-standing partnership between the two nations and encouraged their troops to work closely together.
"This year's Yama Sakura will not only be challenging, but it should be a rewarding experience for all of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines," said Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, I Corps commanding general. "And over the next several days our teams will have the opportunity to train together, to work together, but more importantly to build those everlasting bonds of trust and partnership that are so critical to this alliance."
Yama Sakura pits about 4,500 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members and about 2,000 U.S. Service members against a notional computer-generated invader, and simulates the full spectrum of military operations with an emphasis on bilateral counter-attack and amphibious operations.
Yama Sakura 67 is scheduled to run from Dec. 8 through Dec. 14, though many American Service members arrived a week or more ahead of time to prepare the exercise area, and to engage in cultural exchanges to build stronger relationships with their Japanese partners.
This year marks only the second time in about eight years I Corps has participated in Yama Sakura. It is the first time in six years for Eastern Army, as the exercise rotates between Japan's five regional armies.
According to Eastern Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Koichi Isobe, since the exercise's inception in 1982, during the Cold War era, it has changed and evolved to keep pace with real-world events.
Isobe said throughout the past three decades, Japan's American partners have been a crucial component in Japan Ground Self-Defense Force training.
"U.S. Forces are an irreplaceable partner of [Japan Ground Self-Defense Force]. We will continue working together in response to new challenges and emerging threats," Isobe said.