ABOARD USS ESSEX --
The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force and Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit began operations for Keen Sword 2011, Dec. 6.
Service members conducted practice drills, including an amphibious landing with a 20-man insert of force reconnaissance Marines and sailors.
The events were preliminary, allowing the participants to see how scenarios might play out when the actual certification portion begins, which is slated for Dec. 9.
“This annual, bilateral training event is designed to increase interoperability between the two countries forces and strengthen the U.S-Japanese defensive readiness,” said Col. Andrew MacMannis, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit commanding officer.
MacMannis added, Keen Sword is a large scale event with a lot of moving parts. The amphibious landing and reconnaissance insert conducted, however important, is just a piece of the puzzle.
This exercise also demonstrates both sides enduring commitments to peace and stability throughout the region and marks the 50th anniversary of the Mutual Cooperation and Security Treaty. The treaty outlines the current Status of Forces Agreement between Japan and the U.S. and allows U.S. military bases to be built on Okinawa.
Keen Sword is a field training exercise that alternates each year with Keen Edge, a command post exercise, and has been a routine event for many years. During Keen Sword, measures are put in place so that the scenarios feel as authentic as possible for all participants.
“With the limited amount of resources and role players provided, I believe they succeeded in keeping the visit, board, search and seizure team insert as professional and as real as possible,” said Cpl. Trevor Reinhart, sniper with force reconnaissance platoon, 31st MEU.
Keen Sword ’11 marks the end of the 31st MEU’s 2010 patrols. Major subordinate commands including Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, will be detaching from the 31st MEU when BLT 2/5 replaces it in January 2011. The MEU will see about half of its personnel change in preparation for its next patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.