US Navy, JMSDF participate in bilateral training exercise

Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet
Courtesy Story

Date: 06.14.2018
Posted: 06.15.2018 10:55
News ID: 281070
USNH Yokosuka, USNS Mercy, JMSDF Mass Casualty Drill

The bilateral medical training exercise was a two-part multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) simulation that consisted of a tabletop discussion aboard Mercy, followed by a mass casualty patient disembarkation from the Mercy to both U.S. and Japanese hospitals in Yokosuka.

“We have never done a mass casualty patient disembarkation exercise from a hospital ship alongside another country,” said Lt. Cmdr. Gordon Markham, the Japan medical mission officer-in-charge, aboard Mercy for Pacific Partnership 2018 (PP18) and the U.S. event planner for the bilateral medical training exercise in Yokosuka. “The objective of the scenario was to create a situation where we could evaluate the U.S. Navy and the JMSDF’s response, both individually and as a joint force, to a simulated disaster and see how we can improve our skills together in the event we have to work alongside each other in a mass casualty patient disembarkation from a hospital ship in a real life scenario in the future.”

The simulated disaster for the training exercise included a Japanese vessel colliding with a U.S. vessel, leaving more than 300 injured people in the water. During the tabletop discussion portion, U.S. Navy Sailors and JMSDF Sailors worked alongside one another to come up with a plan to get the injured people out of the water and onto Mercy for treatment as the ship transited to Yokosuka.

“The goal of bilateral training exercises such as this is to gain a working knowledge of one another and to incorporate each country’s unique skillsets to jointly achieve the mission objective,” said Markham. “We do these types of exercises to identify the areas we, as a joint team, need to improve upon, and this bilateral medical training exercise did exactly that. I strongly believe the lessons learned from this training will help strengthen our partnership with the JMSDF and will play a huge role in the event of a real life HA/DR situation occurring where our countries will be working alongside one another.”

In a bilateral training exercise such as this, communication between the different teams is paramount, according to JMSDF Cmdr. Teppei Tanaka, who works at the JMSDF Maritime Medical Planning Staff Office and was the bilateral medical training team organizer for the JMSDF.

“A major barrier for any bilateral exercise between two different countries is the participants do not often speak the same language as one another,” said Tanaka. “There was an apparent language barrier up front, but it was quickly overcome through hard work, diligence, and a desire to work alongside one another. This exercise proved that even though we don’t speak the same language, we can still partner together to accomplish the mission.”

After the mock patients disembarked Mercy, they were transferred to local U.S. and Japanese hospitals where the ability to admit patients from a United States hospital ship to a Japan-based hospital was assessed.

“It was exciting to play a role in this exercise,” said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Joseph Paul, the deputy emergency manager at Naval Hospital Yokosuka. “It provided the hospital with an opportunity to practice admitting a large number of patients from a U.S. hospital ship into our Japan-based hospital. I strongly believe that the lessons we have learned will help strengthen the partnership between the United States and Japan in the years to come.”

At the conclusion of the exercise, the event leads came together to evaluate the evolution as a whole.

“It has been a pleasure to work alongside the JMSDF in this exercise,” said Markham. “I look forward to seeing how this strong partnership between our two countries continues to grow in the years to come.”

Mercy is making port visits to Yokosuka and Tokyo to promote relationships between U.S. Navy Sailors and Japanese citizens through cultural exchange and bilateral training.