MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit joined the Western Army Infantry Regiment, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in kicking off Exercise Iron Fist 2013 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. Jan. 22, 2013.<br /> <br /> The annual exercise enables Marines and Sailors from13th MEU to build a positive military relationship with the JGDSF. From Jan. 22 to Feb. 15, they will participate in live-fire ranges, small unit tactics and amphibious operations. <br /> <br /> “This training is important in many different ways,”said Col. Christopher D. Taylor, the commanding officer of 13th MEU. “It builds our military bonds, helps us build on our amphibious capabilities and we have fun as our two nations continue to get to know each other.” <br /> <br /> Other than building rapport with the JGSDF, the bilateral training is designed to improve interoperability and be able to effectively conduct contingency operations across the Pacific. It also presents an opportunity to demonstrate to foreign militaries how the Marine Corps conducts training.<br /> <br /> During the ceremony, Col. Matsushi Kunii, the commanding officer of Western Army Infantry Regiment expressed his enthusiasm of the joint training. <br /> <br /> “I would like to express our appreciation for our great partnership,” said Kunii. “This training will enhance our capabilities. I am highly motivated and I hope the exercise will be successful.” <br /> <br /> “This is the eighth consecutive year that we have conducted Iron Fist,” said Maj. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, the deputy commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force. “This is advanced training and this year it promises to be bigger and better than previous years.” <br /> <br /> The 13th MEU and the JGSDF will work together to further enhance their readiness through determination and unit cohesion. This training will also lay the foundation of the 13th MEU’s preparation for deployment later this year.