KIN BLUE BEACH, Okinawa, Japan --
A platoon-sized element of Japanese soldiers spent two days learning from the Marines and Sailors of Company F., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, as they conducted small-boat training operations here, June 2 and 3.
Soldiers with the 12th Infantry Regiment, 8th Division, Western Army, Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces, attached to the 31st MEU’s “Boat” Company May 29, as part of the Japanese Observer Exchange Program, to act in an observational capacity during training events. For two days, they learned the ins and outs of operating combat rubber raiding craft.
“We’ve demonstrated everything with the CRRCs from boat assembly to breaking them down post-exercise,” said Cpl. Lorenzo Herrera, chief CRRC mechanic with 2nd platoon, Co. F., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Burlington, Colo. “This also serves as a refresher course for us before we deploy with the 31st MEU”
The first of the two training days was dedicated to teaching proper handling and use, going over everything from the assembly of the CRRCs to their formations in the water and positioning of the scout swimmers. The following day saw the Japanese soldiers learning how to operate the boats and the proper handling procedures once they hit the beach.
“In order to be better prepared for any future engagements on Japanese territory, we must strengthen and maintain our amphibious capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Koji Hirata, the officer in charge the Japanese platoon with the JGSDF Ground Staff Office. “Everything we learn builds upon what we know, making us more prepared and able to work alongside the Marines.”
The Japanese soldiers were not alone in the learning process. Even though the two-day exercise was a skills refresher for the Marines and Sailors, they too gained valuable experience not normally afforded to them.
“The integration of our Marines and the Japanese soldiers is nearly seamless, speaking to how successful the exchange program has been so far,” said 1st Sgt. Michael C. Waters, company first sergeant for Co. F., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Dallas. “They have exercised, ate and slept as one unit since their arrival, which is giving our Marines experiences that cannot be received from conventional bilateral exercises.”
While the Japanese soldiers are not actively participating in raid exercises with the Marines during their integration, observation of a force experienced in amphibious operations will strengthen the JGSDF’s defensive capabilities.
“Japan has a lot of small, secluded islands surrounding its main body and Okinawa,” said Hirata. “This type of landing requires skill and stealth, and who better to learn from than the Marines?”
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.