News: Japanese military expand humanitarian aid training at Cobra Gold 2014
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Crista Mack
PHITSANULOK, Thailand - The Japanese Ground Self Defense Force joined Exercise Cobra Gold 2014’s command post exercise with a 21 person team dedicated to Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief. From Feb. 10-20 they worked to improve natural disaster assistance.
Although HA/DR table-top exercises are regularly conducted within the country of Japan, exercise Cobra Gold is a multinational multilateral exercise, this is an opportunity to participate with multiple nations, much like in real world HA/DR scenarios.
The team is headed by JGSDF Col. Toshiya Sasaki, chief of the Humanitarian Aid/Disaster Relief operation at Cobra Gold 2014. Although this is the first time Sasaki has be to Cobra Gold, he worked during the 2011 Japanese Earthquake and following tsunami.
Real world situations apply directly to this team, particularly for the three on Sasaki’s team that just returned from assisting the Republic of the Philippines for recovery from Typhoon Haiyan.
“They spent months providing HADR services to the country of the Philippines,” said liaison officer Lt. Col. Ray Sabalboro, U.S. Army I Corps Forward, Camp Zama, Japan. “So they literally came off of real world HA/DR and that real world event happened to also be a multinational support. “
Sabalboro acted as primary U.S. consultant during the exercise for the Japanese forces as they played a notional concept in order to prepare themselves for real world emergencies.
“They all came here to do role play; that’s the uniqueness; they don’t usually get that in Japan when they do their own local exercises; they still have a U.S. military that’s stationed on Japan that’s part of the exercises, but they won’t have the breath of nations that are here at Cobra Gold,” said Sabalboro. “All these nations that are here, they don’t usually get that unless they are at an exercise of this size.”
“In Cobra Gold, they use lessons learned from the Philippines disaster relief during Typhoon Haiyan,” said Sasaki. “If they have the chance to be dispatched to other countries for HA/DR, they can use these lessons learned from this experience.”
According to Sabalboro, the best benefit for the JGSDF at Cobra Gold is the multinational coordination. “The multinational environment is part of the exercise. It’s what makes this different from other HA/DRs, because it’s a military to military coordination with some flavors of interagency, meaning the government of Thailand and the UN.”
Also assisting from the U.S. was U.S. Marine Corps Col. Mike Silven, liaison officer.
“The two officers from the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps are very helpful. The assistance is outstanding and contributes to achieving the objective of this exercise,” said Sasaki. “The staff was working hard, to go and coordinate for resources, for requirements, for staffing, they didn’t just sit at the table, they moved around and talked to people from other countries.”
Nine of the staff were from Japan’s Central Readiness Force, two from the Air Self Defense Force, and one from the Defence Intelligence Headquarters in Tokyo.
According to Sasaki, the team worked together well, despite this being their first time working together.
“It’s our first time to be a team here but I believe each person in our team is very experienced … so they are not hesitant to make connection with other participants from other countries,” said Sasaki. “Our two objectives is to heighten interoperability with other countries and to heighten the friendship, and these objectives have been accomplished.”
Following Cobra Gold 2014, there will be a Concept Development Conference during March in Hawaii, three Japanese officers will attend and address how they want to address future scenarios.
“They look forward to participating in future exercises, and they did an excellent job, given the scenario that they were given.” Said Sabalboro. “The Kingdom of Thailand has been a gracious host, allowing us to participate in this exercise.”