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    U.S. and Japan continues a 37 year partnership with Yama Sakura 75


    Photo By Petty Officer 1st Class Kiona Miller | A Japan Northern Army service member translates information between America’s First...... read more read more

    For 37 years, Yama Sakura has served as the U.S. Army Pacific and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s premiere joint training exercise for U.S. and Japanese forces to strengthen their bilateral relationship and demonstrate their capability to support the security interest of their allies within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

    U.S. Army I Corps and Joint Ground Self-Defense Force’s Northern Army participated in Yama Sakura 75 as the primary training and operating commands, with approximately 1,600 U.S. forces from around the region and 5,000 JGSDF forces supporting exercise efforts based at Camp Higashi-Chitose.

    “It’s been about five years since we’ve been to Northern Army [region],” said Col. Kent Strader, I Corps plans director. “This is giving us an opportunity to operate in a region of the world that is a strategic interest, especially to the United States.”

    For seven days, both armies operated in the subfreezing winter conditions of Hokkaido, Japan, to test bilateral planning, coordination and interoperability, as well as working side by side to exchange best practices to complete a single focus.

    “The U.S. and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members exchange ideas, tactics, techniques, procedures, as well as culture and shared military experiences,” said Strader. “The exercise also demonstrates the resolve of the U.S. to support its allies and partners in the into Asia pacific region.”

    While sharing military techniques was the cornerstone of operations during the exercise, participants also demonstrated their ability to integrate the multiple facets of military operations in a new multi-domain environment.

    “This is only our second year playing in the multi-domain operations environment [Yama Sakura], but we have the multi-domain task force,” said Maj. Gen. Viet Luong, the U.S. Army Japan commanding general. “The multi-domain task force has really changed the nature of how we prosecute this operation and this type of war against a near-peer enemy and at least this scenario has presented multiple dilemmas for our foes.”

    Each year, U.S. Army Pacific operates with one of five JGSDF armies located in five separate regions across Japan.

    “When we exercise with each of these armies, each of them is organized differently, each of them has different capabilities, each of them live in a different region and sometimes that region has different climates,” said Strader. “This gives us a great opportunity to operate in an extreme climate and exercise bilaterally with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force.”

    Breaking down language barriers

    Exercise Yama Sakura serves as a unique exercise compared to others that U.S. forces participate in. The backbone of every military mission falls on the ability to communicate with counterparts as well as up and down a chain of command.

    Within the main operating area of the exercise, interpreters can be seen translating information with both Japanese and U.S. military members. This ensures that ideas and tactics can be shared on each side while continuing to complete the overall exercise mission.

    As part of the team of interpreters, U.S. Army Sgt. KEITH ALBRETSEN, assigned to 300th Military Intelligence Brigade, served as a linguist for Yama Sakura for five years. Throughout those five years, Albretsen said he has had the opportunity to work with and develop bonds with the military service members from all five Japan Ground Self-Defense Force armies.

    “It's great to get to know all the different faces of Japan's Self-Defense Force, and it's definitely an important thing to them as well that we're here supporting them and working alongside of them as a partner.,” said Albretsen. “When we see them and work with them as peers they certainly appreciate that and feels it builds that trust.”

    The interpreters are carefully placed throughout the exercise command area, which consists of thousands of military key players throughout several functional hubs. This is done so that when integral moments arise to strategize among the key players, the interpreters are available to effectively communicate for both sides.

    “When you come to these exercises, you realize how important communication is and being able to understand one another,” said Albretsen. “So actually practicing next to each other and trying to communicate and perform the exercises that are part of these events is very critical for not only building relationships but also building trust and the ability to work together in an effective manner.”

    Before joining the Army, Albretsen spent two years in Japan as a volunteer missionary and hopes exercises like Yama Sakura continue to maintain and enhance on the foundation that has been in established in both countries for decades.

    “It's good for us to learn how to coordinate with people from a very different cultural background and also have the understanding that they don't have the experience that we have,” said Albretsen. “So us being here and able to rub shoulders, become friends and share those personal experiences with them means a lot to the Japanese people and to the members of Japanese Self-Defense Force.”
    Sharing the culture

    While Yama Sakura 75 serves as a training venue for both countries to bilaterally enhance their military alliance it also acts as an opportunity to bilaterally share and experience each countries’ culture with cultural events.

    Master Sgt. Vince Lowery, the civil affairs directorate for America’s First Corps and the exercise’s culture event coordinator, worked with the Japanese general affairs section to plan and coordinate several cultural events for participants throughout the exercise.

    One of the major events held during the exercise was a meeting hall, known as Victory Hall, where service members could bond with their Japanese counterparts. At the facility, service members learned about the history of Japan from static displays, created origami, practiced writing in Japanese, and played U.S. and Japanese centric games.

    “So we do what this year we call Victory Hall, previously known as Friendship Hall, to go and bond with [our] Japanese counterparts,” said Lowery. “It’s a good place to find commonality and common ground so when we're having a rough time here during operations we can go kind of decompress.”
    In addition to the cultural center, service members were also able to participate in a cultural learning tour at a local soy sauce factory in Chitose, Japan, as well as a noncommissioned officer discussion to share commonalities between ranking structure and training programs.
    One of the most memorable moments for Lowery was an arm wrestling competition held during last year’s Yama Sakura exercise located in Sendai, Japan. He said that its team building aspect allowed both sides to get to know each other and further enhance the bilateral partnership.
    “It was a good shared experience,” said Lowery. “The shared experiences and the experiences here in Yama Sakura, I've had friends and colleagues post those memories for years after stating this was one of the best experiences I've had in the military.”
    The Future
    Peace and security has been the cornerstone of the relationship between U.S. and Japan for more than 60 years, and exercises like Yama Sakura have helped to forge the shared vision of peace, prosperity and regional stability.

    Luong believes the exercise is currently operating with the future in mind as the vision of peace, prosperity and stability are incorporated into the mission and U.S. and Japan are challenging their ability to defend land, sea and air while transcending into space and cyberspace.

    “We are already at the cutting edge of that because this year, in addition to the scenario, we will also have the participation of the multi-domain task force for America's First Corps into this exercise not only enhancing the bilateral targeting but also how we would operate bilaterally in the different types of domain that we have not explored in the past and that's to include cyber and electromagnetic,” said Luong.
    It is that multi-domain aspect and the continued underlining theme of peace, alliance and partnership that will be shown for exercises to come.



    Date Taken: 12.15.2018
    Date Posted: 12.15.2018 22:06
    Story ID: 303798

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