Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Training Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
Members of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force left the Land of the Rising Sun for the Golden State in mid-January 2013, to train with Marines and Sailors from 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit for Exercise Iron Fist 2013.
From Jan. 27-Feb. 3, 2013 both Forces took their skills to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., for the second week of the exercise. This enabled both forces to practice their tactics, learn from each other and take advantage of the expansive ranges in the Mojave Desert.
“What we do these [Exercises] for, is to build relationships both at the staff level …but also down at the individual Marine, Sailor and soldier level,” Said Capt. Brian J. Marthiljohni, a Celina, Tx. native and company commander of Bravo Company, 1/4, 13th MEU. “When I look at their soldiers and my Marines, they are every bit as proficient in the tactics that they do, just as mine are at theirs.”
The Marines of Bravo Company performed combat tactics, ranging in scale from the platoon level of a few dozen Marines, to company plus-sized maneuvers of hundreds, with artillery and armored vehicles. Both the Marines and JGSDF took turns assaulting three different ranges. Numerous trench systems, hills, wadis, and bunkers at each place gave the platoons different opportunities to employ their troops.
“I’ve gotten to know my team quite a bit more being out here,” said Lance Cpl. David M. Bray III, a Coeur d’Alene, Id. native and fire team leader with Bravo Company, 1/4, 13th MEU. “Getting to run my team and getting a feel for what they know really helps me to determine what I need to work with them as far as proficiencies and deficiencies go. The [JGSDF’s] training has opened my eyes to seeing how they go through the same ranges we go through. The training here will help me prepare mentally for future exercises with other militaries on deployment.”
Each day the Marines and members of the JGSDF rehearsed assault drills, observed each other and corrected their own deficiencies. Some troops provided support by fire with machineguns and mortars, enabling their brothers in arms to maneuver to assault. Others used heavy weapons such as the HOWA-87 Recoilless Rifle and the Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon to aid in clearing objectives.
The JGSDF benefited from the training in numerous ways, from the opportunities to the combat doctrine shared between warriors.
“Here we could have various training such as mortars and live fire during the day and night, and that was very beneficial,” said 1st Lt. Yutaka Sato, and Sasebo, Japan native, operations officer, 1st Company, Western Army Infantry Regiment, Japan Ground Self Defense Force. “The ranges are smaller in Japan so this enabled our soldiers to do more drills and get more practice. We were thoroughly impressed with the Marines combining maneuvering and firing”
Both groups ended the week with a mechanized assault on a fixed enemy position at Emerson Lake. The JGSDF rode in 7-Ton trucks while the Marines rode in Amphibious Assault Vehicle 7’s. Tanks, mortars, artillery and other combined arms offered a glimpse of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force to the JGSDF.
“In the final exercise, it was great that we could see tanks and the AAV’s join us on the range,” added Sato. We normally couldn’t have so many elements attacking these objectives at the same time during training. I really hope we can do this more in the future.”
In the coming weeks, 1/4 and the JGSDF will train off the California coast together. The training they have done here will serve as a foundation for the final week of the Exercise on San Clemente Island. There they will bring their unique abilities for one final demonstration of bilateral cooperation and amphibious capabilities.