OKINAWA, Japan - Combat engineers with 9th Engineer Support Battalion and members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force conducted training on the assembly of medium-girder bridges here Feb. 1.
Three JGSDF officers participated as part of the Japan Observer Exchange Program, which allows members of the Marine Corps and JSDF to share techniques and tactics while strengthening camaraderie and interoperability between the service members.
JGSDF officers and the Marines began the training with an overview of the seven main parts of the bridge and then worked together to assemble a single-story, medium-girder bridge.
“It was more than a demonstration of capabilities,” said 1st Lt. Matthew R. Massman, a combat engineer officer with 9th ESB, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “It was an opportunity to learn from each other, as we both discussed how the engineer aspect of our units function.”
The bridge consists of top panels that are pinned together to form two girders and joined at each end by a beam. This type of bridge is commonly used in a deployed environment and requires 12-18 engineers to assemble.
“We had a great experience working with the Marines and learning how their bridge system functions,” said 1st Lt. Shomei Ugaki, an infantry officer with 27th Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, Northern Army, JGSDF. “The only way to understand the Marine Corps and its values is to get involved with the Marines. We did that through training and spending time with them at work and on liberty, really getting to know each other.”
The JGSDF officers conducted training with 9th ESB over a five-week period.
“I enjoyed the opportunity to share the way we do things,” said Cpl. Cole T. Passick, a combat engineer with 9th ESB. “It is important to work with a variety of different people. When you are deployed, you never know who may be there to help assemble a bridge, and you have to be able to trust those working next to you.”
While the purpose of the training was to show the capabilities and construction of the bridge, all the service members benefited from the time spent together, according to Ugaki.
“We don’t get very many opportunities to meet other militaries or get away from our normal routines,” said Ugaki. “I enjoyed my experience and would recommend it to my fellow officers.”