Northern Viper 17 comes to an end

by Lance Cpl. Andy Martinez, III Marine Expeditionary Force
Stripes Okinawa

MISAWA AIR BASE, AOMORI, JAPAN -- For the past three weeks, Misawa Air Base, Japan, hosted U.S. Marines with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing during Northern Viper 2017, an annual joint contingency exercise that tests the interoperability and bilateral capability of the Japan Self-Defense Force and U.S. Marine Corps forces. The exercise took place at Misawa AB and on the nearby island of Hokkaido, August 10-28, 2017.

NV17 brought together nearly 3,500 U.S. Marines and JGSDF members to enhance and improve interoperability at the tactical level to keep their forces formidable and adaptive.

“Northern Viper was a success because we were able to find a new partnership, not only with the 11th Brigade but with the Air Force and Navy in Misawa as well,” said Maj. Eric M. Landblom, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st MAW, exercise operations officer.

MAG-36, which was the Aviation Combat Element for this exercise, supported the Ground Combat Element by providing rotary-wing and tiltrotor aircraft, support equipment, pilots, maintenance personnel, as well as command and control assets.

Throughout the exercise they conducted multiple air assault operations, insertion and extractions, external lifts, long-range raids and aerial gunnery missions to support their counterparts on the ground.

The Marines couldn’t have accomplished the mission without the assistance of Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, MAG-36.

“MWSS-172 supported the forward arming and refueling point,” said 1st Lt. Aaron K. Guerrero, MWSS-172 communications officer in charge. “Some of our Marines got to experience, for the first time, hot refueling, which consist of an aircraft getting refueled while the engines are still turned on, as oppose to cold refueling, where the aircraft engines are shut down and rotor blades are secured. The Marines got to hone their skills on that.”

The fully integrated, large-scale exercise provided top-notch, realistic and comprehensive joint training opportunities around northern Japan.

“This exercise better prepares 1st MAW to fight tonight because we were able to utilize training areas that aren’t available in Okinawa,” Landblom said. “We were able to create an opportunity for our Marines to be able to go out and fly in terrain that wasn’t available to most of our Marines that are on the Unit Deployment Program with MAG-36, 1st MAW, or the tenant units in Okinawa.”

Misawa AB was the power projection hub the Marines needed for their aircraft to accomplish their mission in Hokkaido. This provided Marines and Airmen an opportunity to see and interact with each other on a daily basis.

“The Air Force and Navy here have been phenomenal in helping us achieve our mission goals,” said Landblom. “When the air base found out they were getting 500 Marines they opened up their arms and said ‘How can we help you’. They were very supportive, if we had a contingency they were the first ones to offer help.”

The opportunity for U.S. and Japan forces to practice interoperability gave the participants of NV17 a chance to practice the tactics, techniques and procedures that would be needed to face any crisis or threat in the vast Asia-Pacific theater.

This combined-joint exercise is held to enhance regional cooperation between participating nations to collectively deter security threats.

Photo Caption:

A crew chief fires a Browning M2 .50-caliber machine gun from the back of a CH-53E Super Stallion above Draughon Range near Misawa Air Base, Japan, August 21, 2017, in support of exercise Northern Viper 17. This combined-joint exercise is held to enhance regional cooperation between participating nations to collectively deter security threats. The crew chief is assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, currently forward deployed under the Unit Deployment Program with Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st MAW, based out of Okinawa, Japan.

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