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NEWS | Dec. 16, 2014

US Marines, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Look to Sky for Forest Light's Culminating Event

By Cpl. Drew Tech III Marine Expeditionary Force

U.S. Marines and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force troops simulated a movement to contact and assault on an objective Dec. 9-10 while participating in Forest Light 15-1 at the Oyanohara Training Area in Yamato, Japan.

Forest Light is a routine, semi-annual exercise designed to enhance the U.S. and Japan military partnership, solidify regional security agreements, and improve individual and unit-level skills.

The training focused on incorporating the JGSDF members with the Marines during a combined close air support and infantry assault to an objective.

“The Japanese are new at close air support and integrating air and surface fires together,” said Capt. Gene Ziemba, a native of Warner Robins, Georgia, and a forward air controller and air officer with 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program. “We’re increasing their ability to combine arms on an objective to get the most bang for their buck.”

The Marines and JGSDF trained together for a week leading up to the assault, learning the way the other worked and bringing it all together for the culminating event of the exercise.

“This training has been very helpful for us to better understand each other’s skills,” said JGSDF Maj. Tomohito Urakawa, company commander for 3rd Company, 42nd Regiment, 8th Division, Western Army. “The Marines conduct training very, very seriously. We have an interest in the Marine Corps’ abilities, and we feel that they can make us better.”

During the assault, a team of Marines from 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company worked alongside their JGSDF counterparts to coordinate the close air support necessary to take out a simulated target.

“My mission is to liaise with any unit outside the Marine Corps that would use Marine Corps close air support assets and fire support,” said Capt. Stephen L. Walker, a native of Morganton, North Carolina, and a field artillery officer with 5th ANGLICO, III MEF Headquarters Group, III MEF. “I provide that coordination and that fire support for that unit. The JGSDF don’t have joint terminal air controllers, so I provide that skill set for them.”

Forest Light demonstrates the continued commitment of the U.S. and Japan to increase interoperability of their armed forces and maintain a strong partnership.

“We’re increasing our bilateral partnerships with the Japanese in order to further their ability to provide internal defense throughout their home islands,” said Ziemba. “I like to say that they always train for playing a home game, where as we always play away games.” 

At the end of the training, both the Marines and JGSDF gained a better understanding of how each other operate and will be better equipped to work together in any potential future events.

“It gives us a better understanding of how our staffs will work together,” said Walker. “They see what we bring to the fight and what we can offer. We are continuing to build our coalition partnerships in the Pacific.”
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