CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan -- A platoon of soldiers with the 12th Infantry Regiment, 8th Division, Western Army, Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces, arrived here, May 29, to join the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit during some upcoming pre-deployment training.
As part of the Japanese Observer Exchange Program, the soldiers will live and integrate with Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU for approximately three weeks of amphibious operations.
The JGSDF will gain hands-on practice during applicable events, such as gear familiarization with Combat Rubber Raiding Craft, the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, and swim qualifications in the open ocean. The main purpose of the program is to improve the soldiers’ education in amphibious operations by observing their U.S. Navy and Marine counterparts.
"Working with the 31st MEU will prove to be an enjoyable and useful experience for us," said Sgt. Yasuhiro Kawsaki, a rifleman for the JGSDF platoon.
The involvement of JGSDF soldiers in the MEU's regularly-scheduled training comes in response to the April 2012 U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee, also known as the 2+2, statement calling for more dynamic defense cooperation and bilateral training.
By sharing small unit concepts and tactics for amphibious operations, the two forces aim to increase interoperability and strengthen bilateral response to future challenges. This is the third time the MEU has hosted a small Japanese cadre as part of JOEP and the practice has already shown its value.
"Integrating the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force Platoon into the 31st MEU has strengthened the partnership of our two nations and increased the overall security cooperation and disaster relief capabilities that our countries can provide if ever called upon,” said Lt. Col. Troy Roesti, executive officer of the 31st MEU and native of Sherwood, Ohio.
The 31st MEU and Japanese Self Defense Forces continually fortify their bond through shared training in order to enhance security and stability in the Asia Pacific region.