A battalion of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force joined Troopers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment for a first-of-its-kind training exercise at the National Training Center in January.
The training exercise aimed at preparing the 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, from Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Wash., for worldwide deployment including the challenges faced while working with host nation militaries. The exercise also gave United States and Japanese forces a chance to expand upon an existing partnership.
Before U.S. Army units deploy to the battlefield, they rotate through the NTC, where they must face Troopers of the 11th ACR, which acts as the unit’s sparring partner. The 11th ACR specialize in replicating opposing forces, Host Nation security forces, insurgencies and civilian populations. The goal is to present major challenges to training units that come through NTC. The visiting JGSDF battalion holds a similar mission – set while at their home station at Japan’s Camp Fuji Combined Arms Training Center.
For the rotation, JGSDF consisted of three mechanized infantry platoons and one tank platoon. They paired with C Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th ACR, to become Task Force Red Blitz, which aimed to replicate HNSF. The 3-2 SBCT could then direct or assist Task Force Red Blitz in the same way they would during partnerships with real-world HNSF during overseas operations.
Captain Sebastian Engles, commander of C Troop, 1/11ACR, explained that initially a communication barrier existed between 11th ACR Troopers and Japanese Soldiers. Both units had to rely on interpreters to communicate. Technical aspects were even more difficult.
“It was a very unique experience,” Engles stated. “I think as we step back from Iraq and Afghanistan, a lot of my Troopers have not had the experience to work with an allied military. This was eye-opening for a lot of these guys who may have come from somewhere, where they never left their hometown prior to joining the Army. Now all of the sudden they are climbing aboard a Type 74 Tank (main battle tank of the JGSDF) and conversing with Japanese Soldiers on the similarities or the differences of our equipment or even, the cultural similarities and differences. I think that, more than anything else, was a win for me. In the event we ever have to go work with these guys in the future at the very least we have this to look back on and say ‘hey it’s still possible’. It’s absolutely possible to work with another military.”
(Editor’s note: A portion of this article appeared in a previous story by NTC PAO.)