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Marines, JGSDF come together for Forest Light

US Marine Corps News

By 2nd Lt. Jeanscott Dodd, Marine Corps Bases Japan

YAUSUBETSU TRAINING AREA, HOKKAIDO, Japan -- For most military members, seeing a helicopter land is a common occurrence. Seeing one land at sea is not so common. Riding in a helicopter equipped with skis as it lands on a blanket of snow on a mountainside is even less common.

Working in tandem with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, Marines with Combat Logistics Regiments 35 and 37 had the opportunity to take part in such an uncommon evolution during a U.S.-Japan cold weather training exercise in mainland Japan March 2-12.

The regiments, part of 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and soldiers from 4th Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, JGSDF, participated in the training to increase interoperability and enhance individual and unit cold-weather skills.

The exercise, dubbed Forest Light 12-2, took place at the Yausubetsu Training Area in Hokkaido, Japan.

“This training is an important opportunity for our Marines and the JGSDF soldiers to learn from one another and build relationships,” said Col. John E. Kasperski, commanding officer of CLR-37, during the opening ceremony.

Upon their arrival, the Marines were welcomed by the JGSDF soldiers and launched straight into training. They first conducted station training with classes about enemy prisoners of war, combat lifesaving and first aid, individual equipment and movement using snowshoes. For many, it was their first time working with military members from another country.

“Both our Marines and the JGSDF soldiers showed no hesitation to begin interacting,” said 2nd Lt. Brigham T. Doud, instructor for EPW training and a controller during the field training exercise. “Both units welcomed each other and were eager to learn one another’s tactics.”

The staff from both countries also conducted a bilateral command post exercise prior to the FTX to prepare them for better bilateral operations throughout the exercise. Simultaneously, preparation for the FTX continued with heliborne training, a cross-country skiing class and practical application and bilateral rehearsals.

“The ski training was a great event because the Marines and JGSDF soldiers shared many laughs while learning a valuable skill for cold-weather conditions,” said 1st Lt. Yujirou Yauchi, a JGSDF ski instructor and interpreter.

Marines and JGSDF soldiers maneuvered throughout the training area, reacting to notional and real-world enemies, role-played by JGSDF and Marine scenario controllers, who graded the unit’s actions during all events.

The weather in Hokkaido enabled the special emphasis on cold weather training, as fresh snow was abundant throughout the training area.

The FTX culminated with the JGSDF conducting a passage through friendly lines of a Marine defensive position, immediately followed by a Marine heliborne assault, with JGSDF providing indirect fire support.

The FTX allowed the Marines from 3rd MLG a unique opportunity to conduct infantry training alongside JGSDF counterparts.

“Any chance for Marines to get out and do basic infantry training is great, even if it isn’t their everyday job,” said 2nd Lt. Matthew C. Librizzi, platoon commander for Marine FTX forces during the training. “The cold temperatures and snow here at Yausubetsu was a great opportunity as well.”

Forest Light 12-2 ended with both units coming together for a farewell engagement and a formal closing ceremony. The relationships built between the Marines and JGSDF soldiers throughout the exercise are sure to have lasting benefits for both countries.

“The biggest takeaway from Forest Light has to be the camaraderie we built within the platoon as well as with our Japanese counterparts, and our actions here will only strengthen our bonds with the JGSDF for future cooperation and training,” said Librizzi.

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