News: Spartans reignite Arctic partnership in Japan
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Members of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division recently completed a trip to Japan to focus on building partnerships with U.S. Army Japan, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and the 1st Airborne Brigade of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, headquartered at Camp Narashino, Japan.
U.S. Army Col. Matthew W. McFarlane, commander of the 4-25 IBCT, said the weeklong meeting was a great opportunity to engage and work with military partners in Asia, learning more about their organizations and educating them about the Spartan Brigade’s forced entry capabilities.
“It’s important, as we’ve learned in the last 10 years of war, that we are going to operate on the battlefield with joint, interagency and combined partners.” McFarlane said. “So now we’re conducting training that incorporates those lessons learned to ensure we are a better force when we have to fight alongside our joint and combined partners again on the battlefield.”
McFarlane said the leadership is putting emphasis on the importance of knowing and understanding out military partners and their capabilities.
“So we are familiar with our partners, we know what equipment and capabilities they bring to the fight and they know what we bring to the fight so we are more effective from the get-go, instead of waiting until we get to an area of operations when we’re actually in some type of conflict or situation that requires us to work together or alongside each other,” he said.
The partnership visit was all part of the brigade’s involvement in Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2013.
Staff members in the 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment, who are part of the Spartan Brigade, integrated with the 3rd MEF to participate in the joint exercise, along with 3,000 military personnel from the U.S. and around the Pacific.
“At the end of our exercise, we exercised staff functions and joint war fighting systems in a simulated warfare environment and then we’ve also established relationships and educated each other so all of the leadership that participated has greater depth of experience,” McFarlane said.
McFarlane and members of his staff also met with their partner brigade the 1st Airborne Brigade of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, headquartered in Camp Narashino, Japan.
The two staffs exchanged briefs and overviews of their organizations and then toured the Airborne Training School.
“We took the day to tour and see firsthand the airborne training school, some of their rigging procedures for heavy drops and for personnel, and then we got hands on with their parachutes,” McFarlane said.
It’s a great way to get hands on and to establish a better understanding of our partners and we hope to reciprocate in the future.
McFarlane explained that this was the Spartan Brigade’s first event with the bi-lateral partnership and a key leaders meeting with Japanese Maj. Gen. Tadao Maeda.
“Maj. Gen. Maeda was a gracious host who clearly has a lot of experience with airborne operations and his brigade was very disciplined and professional and will be a great partner to work with as we move forward in the future,” McFarlane said.
The trip was a learning experience for everyone involved.
“Not only did it provide me an opportunity for a personal relationship, but also the brigade command group that went met their counterparts,” McFarlane said. “Command Sgt. Maj. Hacker was able to meet their senior enlisted adviser or their senior NCO. Our brigade XO met their chief of staff and they were able to discuss things at their level that they do on a daily basis.”
U.S. Army Maj. John J Geis III, Spartan Brigade executive officer, said it was his first time in Japan and he was impressed with what he saw.
The people were incredibly friendly and cared about everything,” Geis said. “As we came into Camp Nirashino, we saw soldiers standing at the position of attention and extremely disciplined. They were running around trying to make sure we were squared away. You looked at them and went, ‘Wow! Those are airborne soldiers.’ They had spit shined boots to the tee. They understood what it was like to be a disciplined airborne trooper.”
Geis said there were similarities between the airborne brigades.
“What was amazing was the progression very similar to ours. … They progress from airborne school, then they go to jump master school, and after they may go to ranger school or free-fall. That all happens at one school within the brigade.”
McFarlane said his Japanese counterparts sent Japanese soldiers to participate at the Northern Warfare Training Center and participate on airborne training missions back in the ‘90s.
“Based on our up-tempo with our frequent deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, we’ve not been able to regale since we’ve been an airborne brigade,” McFarlane said. “At the brigade level this is certainly the first opportunity we’ve had to meet with our Japanese ground-defense force partners in a like brigade with an airborne brigade with similar capabilities to start working alongside them and start working with each other.”
McFarlane said that the Japanese are a natural partner for the Spartan Brigade with their airborne background.
“It’s a very strong partnership we have in Japan. Bi-lateral training improves the ability of all forces involved to respond to the wide range of contingencies in the Pacific area of operation,” McFarlane said.