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III MEF highlights joint operations capabilities

US Marine Corps News

7/8/2011 By Gunnery Sgt. Cindy Fisher, Marine Corps Bases Japan

CAMP COURTNEY, OKINAWA, Japan — III Marine Expeditionary Force personnel highlighted III MEF’s joint operations capabilities and the integration if its air-ground-logistics team during a visit by more than 120 Japan Self-Defense Force officers to Camp Courtney June 28.

A group of about 80 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force officers from the Command and General Staff Course of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Staff College and a group of about 40 officers with the JSDF Joint Staff College, both located on mainland Japan, traveled to the camp to gain a better understanding of the III MEF.

The visit was part of the Japanese Observer Exchange Program, a program designed to foster interoperability between U.S. Marines and JSDF personnel, explained Lt. Col. Todd W. Kocian, the assistant future operations officer for Future Operation, G-3, III MEF.

“This builds relationships between the Marine Corps and the JSDF, and it also increases understanding between the two,” said Kocian. “Visits such as this give us the chance to understand each other.”

“This is key to working better together in the future,” added JGSDF Maj. Taiki Nogami, the JGSDF’s assistant III MEF liaison officer.

The JOEP program includes small-scale to large-scale events such as visits by individual JSDF officers and includes the participation in Yama Sukura, a bilateral, command-level, training exercise typically involving more than 5,000 U.S. and JSDF personnel, Kocian said.

Kocian briefed mid-level officers from the JGSDF Staff College in the morning and senior officers from the Joint Staff College in the afternoon about III MEF’s command structure. He also detailed the structure and capabilities of the MEF’s major subordinate commands to include 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and how each operates as Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Force.

The structure of the MAGTF ensures III MEF’s air, ground and logistics capabilities are fully integrated, added Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck Jr., III MEF commanding general and commander of Marine Corps Bases Japan.

“Every Marine officer is first and foremost trained to be a platoon commander even if he is an aviator or logistician. So, you have that ingrained integration -- air, ground and logistics,” he explained.

“You are the future leaders. It comes down to understanding the entire force,” Glueck said adding JSDF officers need to also understand their sister services’ capabilities and what they bring to a fight.

“There is a future joint task force commander sitting in here,” Glueck told the Joint Staff College students. “The only way he is going to be successful is if he understands the capabilities of the maritime, air and ground forces.”

During both briefs, Glueck also discussed Operation Tomodachi and working with JSDF personnel during the operation.

“What you had was a complex crisis. Many train for crisis. Few train for a complex crisis,” Glueck said of the March earthquake that resulted in a tsunami and a potential nuclear crisis on Honshu.

III MEF planners met the evening of the disaster and had Marine Corps air assets based at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma flying to mainland less than a day later with additional assets deployed the following day, he explained.

“Assisting your country was extremely important to III MEF and our nation. III MEF lives here, we work here and our families live here. It was very important to us,” he said.

The briefs showed the importance III MEF leaders place on interoperability and joint operations and the Marine Corps’ ability to rapidly plan and execute missions, Kocian said.

Integration of forces and learning to work as a team were the main messages he drew from the brief, agreed Japan Air Self-Defense Force Col. Hirofumi Imafuku, a Joint Staff College student.

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