Camp Pendleton Marines have been hosting Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) as part of Iron Fist 2012 this month.
According to 1st Lt. Justin Smith, one of the sessions the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted was bilateral training on landing craft air cushions (LCAC) on Tuesday, Jan 24.
The LCAC is a high-speed, over-the-beach, fully amphibious landing craft, capable of carrying a 60-75 ton payload. It is used to transport the weapons systems, equipment, cargo and personnel of the Marine Air-Ground task force from ship to shore.
The LCAC training has enabled the 15th MEU to demonstrate its amphibious capability to the Western Army Infantry Regiment, JGSDF.Exercise Iron Fist has also reinforced the relationship between the US and Japanese forces, and has provided a unique training opportunity for both services.
“This is the seventh year we have done bilateral training with them,” said Smith. “The first was done in Coronado, and every year since then, it has been done here on Camp Pendleton. We still do some training on Coronado, such as boat training, but the majority of the exercises occur here.”
On January 28, the 15th MEU will conduct helo dunker training with the Japanese soldiers. That exercise includes a swim tank where troops practice techniques involving making a safe exit from a sinking helicopter. A simulator will be used that utilizes a helicopter shell to submerge the students into the water.
The JGSDF arrived Jan. 16, and will exercise with the 15th MEU until Feb. 16. Approximately 400 U.S. service members will be participating in the training. Approximately 250 of Japan’s self defense forces have arrived on Base to train with the Marines.
Smith explained that an opening ceremony was held Jan. 23 “and there will also be a final social event on Feb. 15 for the troops to get together and reflect on the exercise.”
“This is a really great opportunity for Marines and sailors to be able to train with our allies and get to know them,” he continued. “It’s a pretty unique and special training.”
Though Smith could not elaborate on the time taken to prepare for the training, he stated it took a “significant amount of time.”
“We had to set them up with vehicles and work spaces,” he explained. “Real acts of training began Jan. 22.”
Smith stated the training is not only a unique opportunity for the servicemen involved, but also a chance for two of the world’s largest countries to strengthen their bond.
“This training does a number of things for us,” he said. “We are learning from each other, building relationships. We are excited to have them here and always look forward to the experience.”
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