Marines, JGSDF push through weather during final exercise
SHIGA, Japan - The scene of Marines applying camouflage face paint while preparing for a mission is portrayed in Hollywood movies repeatedly.
What is not often seen in movies is Marines, like those of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, as they joined together with Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members to complete light-infantry training in the midst of turbulent weather conditions.
JGSDF members and the Marines with 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, participated in bilateral comprehensive training Oct. 15–16 during Exercise Forest Light 14-01 at the Aibano Training Area in Shiga prefecture, Japan.
The JGSDF and Marines worked with MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft during the exercise, marking the first time the Osprey has been used in training over mainland Japan and the first time JGSDF members have trained with the aircraft.
“Forest Light is a great opportunity to evaluate our capabilities during bilateral operations,” said U.S. Marine Sgt. Kenney Clark, a platoon sergeant with Company K, 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, currently assigned to 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program.
“We are seeing what we need to improve and what we can offer to our ally nations. This exercise has been a great help to us and our future involvement in joint operations in the Pacific.”
III MEF and the JGSDF hold Exercise Forest Light semiannually to strengthen their bilateral partnership, enhance regional security agreements, and improve unit and individual-level skills.
The event started with the Marines patrolling through the underbrush of the training area to rendezvous with a JGSDF element of the 37th Regiment, Central Army.
The Marines worked in tandem with their counterparts to complete the mission – securing a simulated enemy fortification.
The Marines opened the attack with suppressive fire, using blank ammunition on a mock enemy positions as the JGSDF maneuvered down a steep hillside to secure an entrance. Shortly after, the Marines followed their counterparts down the hill and entered the building.
“We struggled with the language barrier,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew E. Sheppard, a rifleman with the company. “But we were able to learn from each other, which was good because we had to use the knowledge and tactics from our training over the past week to get through this final exercise.”
The night brought strong winds, rain and low temperatures, creating additional challenges for the service members, with weather continuing to deteriorate the following morning.
After the call for extraction was received, two Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF, arrived to extract the bilateral forces.
The importance of the Osprey being involved in this iteration of Forest Light is beyond measure, according to Capt. Chad Buckel, the officer in charge of training for the company. The accomplishment of this mission has provided a substantial boost to the relationship between Japan and the U.S.
With the exercise over, a collective look of accomplishment appeared on the faces of the wet and cold Japan and U.S. forces as they unloaded their weapons and shook each other’s hands in congratulations.