CAMP SENDAI, JAPAN – Members of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force are very interested in the processes for success. They know the value of practice, learning from their experiences, and adjusting their tactics to succeed. Service members from the United States and Japan are teaming up to do just that – to track lessons learned - during their bi-lateral training exercise known as Yama Sakura 63, held this year at Camp Sendai, Japan.
“We’re here sharing products, tactics and procedures in support of YS 63,” to “coach, teach, mentor our JGSDF lessons learned colleagues,” Lt. Col. John Brennan, Army Special Forces Officer and Center For Army Lessons Learned training observer said.
As early as World War I, soldiers at many levels engaged in warfare were directed to capture their experiences in order to glean lessons to share with the larger force. In 1985, the Army took a lesson from those early journal writers and formed CALL - The Center for Army Lessons Learned.
The analytical group, located at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., deploys team members all over the world for six-month and one-year periods to provide joint, interagency and multinational forces with historic and emerging trends. Those findings are then compiled into reports and training sessions specific to the unit being reviewed and their mission. The bonus: the information is stored to be used again and again by soldiers in need of information.
“Lessons that the units are learning in combat, lessons that are being learned in training, and also in experimentation. We are kind of the connective tissue then to distill those lessons, and then get them out to the people that need them; to transfer knowledge faster than our enemy,” said Col. Steve Mains, during an interview with Ira Glass on the radio program, "This American Life."**
While the JGSDF has been utilizing their own lessons learned team for seven years, Brennan said they are interested in how the U.S. team does business and their methodologies set by Col. Thomas Roe, current director of CALL.
“We have a habitual relationship with the JGSDF team. Recently a few members came to CALL at Fort Leavenworth for a workshop devoted specifically to sharing our process,” Brennan said.
According to Brennan, the five-day workshop went well, the JGSDF lessons learned team members were very proactive and very eager to absorb what was useful to them.
George Mordica, CALL analyst, traveled to Japan to close out the process.
"A collection plan was developed, the Japanese reviewed it, highlighted what they needed, [and] we will continue to revise it and work together,” Mordica said.
The two teams worked together throughout Yama Sakura 63 to collect data and discuss findings during daily meetings and then changed the course of action based on their findings.
“A fairly rapid adaptation process through the exercise was expected,” Brennan said.
Adaptation was made by both sides of the congruent lessons learned team. While the U.S. team was here to coach, teach, and mentor, they were able to gain insight from the JGSDF team as well.
“We are here to coach, teach, mentor and learn from our Japanese counterparts,” Brennan said.
**Information for this story was collected from the transcripts found at the following website http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/333/transcript