Forest Light brings Japan forces and US Marines together

by Cpl. Drew Tech
III MEF/MCIPAC Consolidated PA

YAMATO, KUMAMOTO PREFECTURE, Japan -- Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members and U.S. Marines came together in a ceremony Dec. 1 to open up exercise Forest Light 15-1 at the Oyanohara Training Area in Yamato, Kumamoto prefecture, 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 in a bilateral training environment.

During the bilateral training exercise, elements of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, currently attached to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program, will join with the 42nd Regiment, 8th Division, Western Army, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.

“In recent years, Western Army has become the center-point of the (JGSDFs) amphibious operations development,” said U.S. Marine Maj. Paul T. Bartok, from Bristol, Connecticut, the III MEF liaison to the JGSDF Western Army. “There is an increased focus on working with the Marine Corps. They are very excited Marines are coming here and very excited to work with us because they want to learn a lot.”

Forest Light 15-1 will consist of a command post exercise and field training events including functional skills training, mortar training, helicopter-borne skills and combined arms procedures scheduled for Dec. 1-12, 2014.

“This gives us the opportunity to work with their officers, work with their (members) and build relationships to better understand the way they think,” said U.S. Marine Maj. Roy M. Draa, the executive officer of 2nd Bn., 9th Marines. “In that sense it’s an opportunity to rehearse what we could very well do a couple weeks or a couple years down the road.”

Forest Light demonstrates the continued commitment of the U.S. and Japan to increase interoperability of our armed forces and maintain a strong partnership to protect Japan from external aggression.

“The Japan-U.S. alliance has a lot of history in building connections through these types of training exercises,” said JGSDF Col. Hiroji Yamashita, the 42nd Regiment commander. “This training helps to strengthen our interoperability and keeps our nation safer because of our alliance with America.”

U.S. and Japan forces have a long history of training together and value all opportunities to learn from each other to maintain the readiness of allies, said Yamashita.

“I’m excited to be here,” said Draa, from Baltimore, Maryland. “I think it’s going to be some challenging training. I think at the end of this short two weeks, there’s going to be a very strong working relationship between the two units here.”

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