US Army, February 20, 2015 - YAUSUBETSU TRAINING AREA, Japan by Sgt Eric-James Estrada, 4BCT, 25ID - Soldiers from U.S. Army Alaska (USARAK) and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) completed Exercise North Wind 2015 here Feb. 21.
To better understand the capabilities of the two countries’ forces, the final week of bilateral training focused on conducting a relief-in-place, a platoon level field training exercise (FTX), and the first airborne operation in Japan between paratroopers with USARAK’s 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division and the JGSDF’s 3rd Battalion, 1st Airborne Brigade, Central Readiness Force.
On Monday, Soldiers from the JGSDF’s 27th Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, Northern Army trained with the 1-Geronimo paratroopers on one unit taking over another unit’s area of responsibility, referred to as conducting a relief in place.
“It’s a whole lot of learning on both sides,” said 1st Lt. Paul Warner, a platoon leader with Blackfoot Company, 1-501 (ABN). “We both get to share how we see things happening in a relief-in-place maneuver.”
“We demonstrated and then they also followed on and demonstrated,” added Warner. “We were able to see both sides.”
Tuesday marked the successful bilateral airborne operation between 1-Geronimo and the JGSDF’s 3rd Battalion, 1st Airborne Brigade, CRF.
“We were able to demonstrate that the U.S. and Japan forces could conduct a jump together,” said Col. Osamu Asai, commander of the 27th Infantry Regiment.
“This marks the first time we’ve had an airborne-to-airborne partnership,” said Capt. Kyle Soler, commander of Blackfoot Company. “Today demonstrated the capability of both forces to project their elements from one point to another for a strategic purpose.”
Soler added that the jump gave them the opportunity to see how the Japanese jumpmasters and their air personnel will conduct airborne operations in the future.
Sgt. Blake Manship, a rigger with the 4th Quartermaster, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), 4/25th IBCT (ABN) was able to work with the Japanese riggers and learn about their training during the airborne operation.
“It was good to see other parachute riggers from a different country,” said Manship. “Different types of parachutes call for different packing procedures.”
Before the airborne operation, four Blackfoot Company, 1-501 (ABN) Soldiers re-enlisted during a special ceremony in front of a Japanese CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
“It was a pretty special moment,” said Warner. “I’ve been a platoon leader for about a year now, so I’ve been able to watch these guys grow into their positions.”
The four Blackfoot Company paratroopers were: Spc. Lucas Mayberry, a healthcare specialist; and infantrymen Sgt. Brandon Mason, Sgt. Dakota Neal and Staff Sgt. Seth Mattox.
“Not many people get to re-enlist in a foreign country on top of getting their foreign jump wings,” said Mayberry.
He added that it was a unique experience to re-enlist in front of a Japanese aircraft.
“It was a fantastic opportunity to give back to the Soldiers for their commitment,” said Soler. “It was very special for us as the Japanese airborne brigade was present for the ceremony.”
The final event was a bi-lateral, three-day FTX from Feb. 18-21, which focused on defeating an enemy attack. The Japanese conducted a relief-in-place of the U.S. paratroopers on Yamatodai drop zone. Both units then moved into company sectors and conducted a movement to contact against an enemy defending in depth. When the enemy locations were identified, each company attacked to destroy the enemy.
“We conducted very good training,” said Asai. “We were able to get lots of experience from the U.S. Soldiers.”
“The United States and Japan has always trained to combine efforts as we conduct humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and non-combatant evacuation,” said Lt. Col. Jason Condrey, commander of 1-Geronimo. “This exercise has clearly demonstrated our ability to expand the scope of our combined capabilities to provide responsive, tailorable and scalable solutions to address threats common to both U.S. and Japanese interests.
“With the success of this operation, we look forward to the opportunity to host Japanese troopers in Alaska.”