MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Soldiers with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force participated in a combined arms training exercise on Camp Pendleton, Jan. 24 through Feb. 1.
The training was planned in a crawl, walk, run format, designed to build confidence in the soldiers' with their weapons. The 5-day long evolution was a part of Exercise Iron Fist 2012.
"We are doing a lot of dry runs to start," said Master Sgt. Shane J. Gersley, range safety officer and the assistant operations chief for 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion. "From there, we will progress to live fire and maneuver. We conduct a lot of rehearsals whenever there is live fire," added the 38-year-old native of Rochester, N.Y.
The weapons training commenced with static live-fire from an unknown distance and involved using Japanese weapon systems for the troops, while senior leadership learned safety, procedures and planning, said Lt. Col. Howard F. Hall, ground combat element commander for Exercise Iron Fist 2012 and the commanding officer of 3rd AABN.
"If we learn each other's tactics, techniques and procedures, build a professional and a working relationship, we've already built trust with a foreign ally," said Hall, whose battalion is carrying out a task typically assigned to a full-sized infantry battalion.
The evolution's 'run' phase involves a combined arms exercise including mortars, air support, light armored vehicles, amphibious assault vehicles and artillery. The end state is to increase interoperability between Marines and JGSDF forces.
"I hope they will bring back the knowledge and experience they have learned from the Marines to further the capabilities of their unit," said Gersley. "This exercise really built camaraderie, not only within the Japanese soldiers, but with the Marines as well."
The 15th MEU is currently training for a deployment later this fall.