Yama Sakura execution phase kicks off
CAMP HIGASHI-CHITOSE, Japan – The execution phase of a bilateral exercise between U.S. and Japanese forces kicked off following a ceremony held here Dec. 5, 2013.
Yama Sakura 65, an annual bilateral exercise held since 1982, is meant to expand mutual understanding and communication skills, and enhance interoperability between Japanese and American military forces. A focus this year is cyber operations.
“The purpose of the exercise is to deepen bilateral relations between Japan and the U.S.,” said Lt. Gen. Kishirou Tanabe, commanding general of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) Northern Army. “It will be to strengthen our relationship between organizations and include various agencies into the exercise. In addition to this, we will also focus on the cyber aspect of the operation from a bilateral perspective.”
According to Tanabe, Yama Sakura is the largest bilateral ground exercise the JGSDF conducts with the U.S. military. The exercise, held from Nov. 29 through Dec. 12, 2013, consists of approximately 1,500 U.S. military personnel and 4,500 Japanese forces. The primary participating units are I Corps out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and the Northern Army of the JGSDF out of Camp Higashi-Chitose and Camp Sapporo.
Deepening bilateral relations between the two countries’ forces does have its challenges, however. Tanabe pointed out those challenges and encouraged his troops to overcome them.
“In order to achieve the purpose, it is crucial that we mutually understand Japanese and U.S. force tactics, combat methods and capabilities, and overcome the differences through coordination and cooperation and creativity,” he said. “I strongly believe Japanese and U.S. response capabilities will improve through individual motivation to achieve concrete objectives through our challenges and new endeavors, and obtain solutions to all challenges in bilateral cooperation.”
Tanabe also emphasized that language and culture differences can be overcome through this exercise and lead to future success in times of crisis.
“Combining various measures, this execution phase will bolster Japanese and U.S. confidence in their mutual ability to fight together through the synchronization of the most immediate and accurate information,” Tanabe said. “I strongly believe that this confidence will be the secret to the success of the bilateral operations and contribute to the expansion of the stronger connections between Japan and the United States.”
While Yama Secura-65’s mission is to bring forces to collectively work together in a real-time environment, the mission this year has a new perspective for the future, based on the U.S. military’s rebalance in the Pacific region. U.S. forces are in the process of building stronger relations with nations in the Pacific region to improve communication and respond to incidents in a more effective manner.
“This great exercise symbolizes our rebalance to the Pacific,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of I Corps. “I Corps is here to stay, assigned to Pacific Command and here in the Pacific to stay.”
Brown emphasized the exercise is a critical link to the U.S. military realignment in the Pacific.
“Training and partnering with foreign military forces is a key component of the rebalance,” Brown said. “Through these activities, we learn to operate together, to cooperate, and we get a personal view of each other than can pay off in the long term. Basically, we will be ready for every situation – from disaster response to self defense.”
Brown also indicated that Yama Sakura 65 will build upon the bond the two nations have between them.
“Exercises like Yama Sakura underscore the strength of the close, long-standing relationship the United States has with Japan and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force,” Brown said. “We are extremely proud of this alliance, which has never been stronger.”
Yama Sakura uses computer simulations that incorporate the staff activities and coping techniques of both the JGSDF and the U.S. Army under the scenario of an armed force attack. The name, “Yama Sakura,” symbolizes the patches worn by United States Army Japan, “Yama” for Mount Fuji and the JGSDF, “Sakura” for cherry blossom.