National Guard Soldiers Train with Japanese Army
By 1st Lt. Rick Breitenfeldt, USA
Special to AFPS
of the 1st Battalion, 115th Brigade Infantry, 29th Infantry
Division (Light), Maryland Army National Guard, travel across
snow- covered northern Japan.
by Master Sgt. Ronald Pitts, USA
Va., – As most Maryland residents put away their winter
clothes and start their annual spring cleaning, 232 members of
the Maryland Army National Guard packed their warmest winter gear
and equipment and traveled halfway across the globe to participate
in some extreme cold-weather training with Japan’s northern army.
the 1st Battalion, 115th and 175th Brigades, 29th Infantry Division
(Light) traveled to Hokkaido, Japan, on Feb. 12 to participate
in a three-week bilateral training exercise with soldiers from
the 11th Division, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
Gen. Elbert N. Perkins, commander of U.S. forces in Japan, said
the exercise, which is more commonly known as "Operation
North Wind" provides U.S. forces a unique opportunity to
exchange doctrinal concepts, skills, and knowledge as well as
develop long-lasting personal friendships.
soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 115th Infantry come here with the
greatest of enthusiasm and determination to not only train diligently
with you, but also to embrace you in a professional friendship,"
said Lt. Col. Jeffrey A. Connelly, the battalion commander, as
he addressed the Japanese soldiers.
the importance of the two units not only training together in
a joint environment, but also developing an understanding of each
other’s culture and doctrine.
the main focus of North Wind is on infantry tactics in a cold
weather environment, I expect soldiers to mature in respect and
understanding of other cultures as well," said Connelly.
to lessons in cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, the Maryland
soldiers brushed up on urban warfare training, air assault training,
field medical training and various other combat-related tasks
during the 20-day exercise.
In a region
of Japan that averages a February temperature of 30 degrees Fahrenheit
and receives measurable snowfall 24 out of 28 days, a special
emphasis was placed on how to properly layer clothing and the
effects of cold weather on weapons and other equipment, said Connelly,
whose soldiers spent a majority of their days in Japan living
in tents and fighting the harsh winter weather conditions.
the first thing Maryland soldiers needed to learn was how to travel
in a snow and ice environment.
the necessary stretching exercises and adjusting of their skis,
expert skiers from Japan’s 11th Division, Northern Army Ground
Self- Defense Force gave the Maryland soldiers instructions in
ski basics at Camp Takikawa Ski Mountain.
a whole new game out here," said Spc. Hanlynn MaungMaung
of Company B, 1st Battalion, 115th Brigade as the Japanese instructors
taught the Maryland Guardsmen how to adjust their skis and execute
basic ski movements such as standing and turning without falling.
"The native soldiers are used to this, but we aren’t."
on falling a lot," said Sgt. Joey Bramande of Company A,
1st Battalion, 175th Brigade.
outside their comfort zone for a day or two, members of the Maryland
Guard finally got their turn to conduct training for the Japanese
with very specialized training in military operations on urbanized
terrain, or MOUT, soldiers from the Maryland infantry units taught
their Japanese counterparts many survival skills necessary on
today’s modern battlefield.
is a lot of work, but I like the intensity and speed," said
Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Browne, a platoon sergeant in Company C,
1st Battalion, 115th Brigade.
urban assault training like this really encourages everyone to
use a lot of teamwork.
like this is a whole new experience," said Spc. Anthony Higgins
of Company A, 1st Battalion, 115th Brigade. "It really helps
you adapt to a cold weather environment and get used to operating
with cold weather equipment."
the Maryland Guard infantry companies also spent time teaching
live- fire assault tactics as well as familiarizing the Japanese
soldiers with weapons systems such as the tube launched optically
tracked, wire guided missile weapon system.
is a little tough, but the Japanese soldiers are really receptive
to what we have to teach," said Sgt. Douglas Clark, the squad
leader for Company C, 1st Battalion, 115th Brigade.
Japanese are really motivated and really hungry to learn,"
Browne said. "They have picked up a lot, and quickly."
that because the United States is deploying many National Guard
units to Iraq, and Japan has pledged to aid in Iraq’s rebuilding,
it is not unreasonable that the units might meet again and share
in the same mission.
cold, mountainous climate of Hokkaido is very similar to environments
where many Guard soldiers are deployed today, such as Afghanistan,"
said Connelly, adding that many soldiers today must work with
coalition forces in multinational environments.
to be ready for any future battlefield," said Connelly, "whether
it is in snow or on sand."