News: Japan, U.S. forces come together to 'Guard and Protect'
Story by Staff Sgt. Rachel Martinez
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- U.S. and Japanese forces practiced defending the base during a guard and protect exercise March 11-13.
This year, the annual exercise was expanded to last for 24 hours and included a fully integrated Base Defense Operations Center.
A company-sized group of soldiers from the Japan Ground Self Defense Force, 9th Infantry Division, 5th Infantry Regiment, in Aomori traveled to Misawa to participate in the exercise. They were joined by a flight of Airmen from the 35th Security Forces Squadron and a flight of airmen from the Japan Air Self Defense Force, 3rd Air Wing. Together, the Airmen and soldiers practiced defending the base against unauthorized entries, improvised explosive devices, surveillance and probing by adversaries.
"This opportunity allowed us to simulate hostile enemy actions against Misawa Air Base and respond to mitigate these threats accordingly. Additionally, the exercise afforded us the opportunity to learn how to overcome and adapt to the various language and cultural barriers associated with operating a true combined command and control operation," said Maj. Dustin Sutton, 35th Security Forces Squadron commander. "What you see on the ground now is what you would actually see if something should happen here."
The bottom line, according to Senior Master Sgt. Shawn Drinkard, 35th SFS superintendent of logistics, was to assess the combined force's ability to protect Misawa's warfighting assets against threats and to evaluate their ability to collectively identify, gather and disseminate force protection intelligence.
The exercise was designed to incorporate layered and integrated defense. Depending on which force detected the threat, they would be responsible for responding with support from the other two forces. During the exercise, each force had their turn in leading response efforts.
"We got an opportunity to exercise our ability and to communicate with one another," said Drinkard. "The tactics we saw were exceptional. Both the ground and air self defense forces took this opportunity to share techniques. What we learned is that in the field, U.S. and Japanese concepts of operation are very similar."
Drinkard served as the Combined Base Defense Operations Center coordinator, providing overall command and control for U.S. forces. Previous guard and protect exercises did not include a combined BDOC, but he said it was important to do so this year so combined forces could make sound tactical decisions based on a common operating picture.
"If there are any challenges it's the communication barrier," he said. "Even with that barrier, we were able to communicate effectively using interpreters in the BDOC to get combined forces on scene."
The other new addition to the exercise this year, a 24-hour time-frame, allowed U.S. and Japanese forces to assess their ability to logistically sustain a longer operation and transition through shift changes. Next year, they are looking to expand the area of operations and add more realism to the training scenarios, such as smoke and ground burst simulators.
"These exercises are important because it gives us an opportunity to assess our ability to combine with host-nation forces to protect the installation, base population and warfighting assets," said Drinkard. "We, 35th SFS, [protect and defend the base] everyday, but when the threat elevates we need all three forces to come together to deter, detect and defeat threats."
Based on the outcome of this exercise, Sutton said he is confident U.S. and Japanese forces can work together to eliminate potential threats.
"I think the exercise was extremely successful and demonstrated a true partnership in the defense of Japan and our military interests," Sutton said. "It demonstrated that we can effectively integrate our operations and defeat our adversaries."