Japanese paratroopers in landmark jump over Alaska
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Two dozen members of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force became the first paratroopers from their country to take part in a training jump from an American forces plane over U.S. soil.
The jump took place Wednesday over interior Alaska as paratroopers from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Japan took part in the training exercise. As the troops landed at the Donnelly Training Area drop zone near Fort Greeley, Alaska, there was a simulated battle for control of a landing strip.
The jump was the culmination of the training program between the two nations, dubbed Operation Arctic Aurora. The training is also part of the larger multinational Red Flag exercise being coordinated by the Alaska Command.
The troops were flown about 200 miles north of the Anchorage base to the drop zone in U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft. The planes are normally based at Yokota Air Base, Japan, but they are in Alaska for Red Flag exercises.
U.S. paratroopers last February trained with their Japanese counterparts in Japan, and they jumped from Japanese CH-47s.
Japan is one of America's key allies in the Pacific air operations, and this training should lay the groundwork in case the two ever have to work with one another during a battle, an Army official said.
"In the event that we had to do a combined operation with the Japanese, we're better prepared for that," said Major Matthew D. McDonald, the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment operations officer at the Anchorage base.
Japanese Lt. Cmdr. Masayasu Igarashi noted the historic nature of the mission for his country. He said through a translator that the mission is important to the bond between the United States and Japan, and his ground defense members will take what they have learned in the comprehensive training back to their peers in Japan.