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Orient Shield '03 begins in Japan

by Sgt. Monica R. Garreau

CAMP TAKIGAHARA, Japan (Army News Service, Nov. 13, 2002) -- More than 500 U.S. soldiers joined 600 of their counterparts from the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force in a ceremony at Camp Takigahara as Orient Shield 2003 got underway in Japan Nov. 8.

The infantrymen from the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment and Japan's 1st Infantry Regiment gathered in formation to officially begin a series of live-fire and bilateral training exercises over the next few weeks.

"We are honored and privileged to have the opportunity to train with, to learn from and develop the bonds of friendship with our counterparts and infantry brothers from the 1st Infantry Regiment and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force," said Lt. Col. Scott McBride, commander of the 2nd Bn., 35th Inf. Rgt., at the ceremony. "Over the coming days we will share in the experiences that only infantrymen can fully understand and appreciate - a long, tough movement on a cold night, the excitement and satisfaction of completing a demanding live-fire exercise, hot water and hot chow.

"Indeed, because we share the hardships, we trust our fellow infantrymen with our very lives. We are part of a brotherhood that bonds the soldiers and our units together. Friendships will develop over the next three weeks that will transcend this infantry - they are friendships born at a unique and special brotherhood that will last a lifetime," he said.

"We look forward to a great exercise during which we emerge better trained through our mutual partnership with the great soldiers and leaders of the 1st Infantry Regiment."

The "Cacti soldiers" of the 25th Infantry Division deployed for Operation Keen Sword from Hickam Air Force Base Nov. 5 and joined the Japanese soldiers at Camp Takigahara as part of Orient Shield 2003.

The commander of Japan's 1st Regiment, Col. Kazuo Sawano, said that he was honored to have the opportunity for his soldiers to participate in the exercise.

"I believe that Orient Shield is a very important exercise, not only for raising fulfillment of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, but also for enhancement of mutual understanding or reliance between these two countries," he said.

The evening following the ceremony, the Japanese soldiers held a welcome party complete with plenty of food, drink and celebration.

It began with the leadership of both units breaking open the sake barrel and ended with Cacti soldiers doing just what their commander said would happen - friendships were formed and bonds were created.

"The hospitality of the Japanese soldiers was outstanding," said Pfc. Randahl Hanks, a scout observer in the Headquarters Company Scout Platoon. "They're really open and easy to get along with."

Following the opening festivities, the soldiers of both nations prepared for the live-fire exercises taking place at the Haigashi-Fuji Training Area.

"It will include day and night live-fire exercises, basic platoon attacks and 'how to knock out a bunker' training," said Maj. Richard Wilson, Cacti executive officer. "The exercise gives the troops the experience of deploying to another country and working in a multi-national scenario - experiencing the human dimension they couldn't get at their home base."

Midway through the field training, 240 Cacti soldiers will attend dinner at local families' homes. They will also have the opportunity to participate in a sports day with the Japanese soldiers, as well as tour some of Japan on an MWR trip.

(Editor's note: Sgt. Monica R. Garreau is a member of the 17th Public Affairs Det.)

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