News: Tomahawk BN partners with Japanese GSDF for Rising Thunder
Story by Sgt. Mark Miranda
YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. – The 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment was the I Corps unit partnered with Japan’s 5th Infantry Regiment for combined arms live-fire exercises Sept. 21 at Yakima Training Center, Wash. The exercise, Operation Rising Thunder, is part of annual training conducted by the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force.
Precisely at 6:00 a.m., the still-dark ranges come to life with the sound of artillery rounds firing and impacting. A pair of illumination rounds fall, cutting the darkness with white light streaks.
“Right on the dot, 0600. From what I’ve seen, [the Japanese soldiers] are very deliberate, very thorough, very detail-oriented,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Feltey, commander of 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, the I Corps unit partnered with Japan’s 5th Infantry Regiment for the morning’s live-fire exercises Sept. 21 at Yakima Training Center, Wash.
The barrage continues, as more than 300 Japanese soldiers assigned to their Ground Self Defense Force wait to take part in the next phase of a SOSRA (suppress, obscure, secure, reduce and assault) and move closer toward their objective high ground.
Strykers from 2nd Bn., 23rd Inf. Regt. “Tomahawk” approach from the right, firing at targets,while from the left, a formation of Japanese Komatsu Light Armored Combat Vehicles armed with 12.7 mm machine guns or automatic 40 mm grenade launchers do the same.
Japanese soldiers quickly dismount and fire anti-tank missiles at the targets that pop-up on the range.
Moments after the 2-23 unit sends mortar rounds downrange, two Japanese AH-1 Cobra helicopters fly in to take out additional targets.
“It’s a lot of firepower going off all at once, and the Japanese have been great about integrating their forces out here,” said Feltey.
This combined arms live-fire exercise, part of Operation Rising Thunder, is a Japanese GSDF military exercise conducted annually at Yakima Training Center. It consists of static ranges, combined arms ranges and live-fire exercises.
“It’s a joint operation - we feed a little off each other to learn new tactics. We’re helping them train for their homeland defense,” said Sgt. Todd Ten-Napel, an infantryman from Tacoma, Wash., with B Company, 2nd Bn., 23rd Inf. Regt.
“We helped them with their close-quarters battle drills and showed them some of our modern techniques to clear rooms, stack on walls, and clear sectors,” Ten-Napel added.
For Pvt. Kirk Calabrese, an infantryman from Summerville, Ga., with only six months in the Army, it was a much-needed first training exercise. He felt it was important to train as part of the unit, which has recently returned from deployment to Afghanistan.
“I absolutely needed this; relying on that team work to help me learn how to be on point and how to do my job better. It’s been a really interesting experience working with the Japanese and seeing the kind of equipment they bring to a fight,” Calabrese said.
Traditionally, I Corps units only provided logistical support for Rising Thunder. This is the first year that Rising Thunder was conducted as bilateral training for the JGSDF and an I Corps maneuver unit.
The JGSDF element is smaller this year due to the tsunami that hit Japan earlier in the year.
“Most of their resources are currently dedicated to their country’s relief efforts, and they had to come to this exercise with a lot of their second-string equipment, but [the Japan 5th Inf. Regt.] came out and trained hard all the same,” said Capt. Reed Markham, commander of B Company, 2nd Bn., 23rd Inf. Regt.
“We accomplished our [training] objectives. And any time you can partner with a foreign army and train to be a multi-national force, it’s definitely something special,” said Markham, a native of Shreveport, La.
The Japanese task force that came to Yakima to conduct training consisted of an infantry company, which includes a heavy mortar platoon and anti-tank platoon, an armor company and a field artillery battery. Also taking part was an aviation unit consisting of three AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and two UH-1 Iroquois utility helicopters.
“This bi-lateral exercise was a very good opportunity. I was impressed with the professionalism of U.S. soldiers and this training was very beneficial to us,” said Col. Teruo Nishiobino, commander of the JGSDF, 5th Infantry Regiment.
The 5th Inf. Reg. is based out of the city of Aomori in northern Japan. The unit falls under the 9th Infantry Division, which has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and more recently to Rikuzentakada, Japan, to aid in the tsunami disaster relief efforts.