Exercise will see troops train on land and sea.
Exercise Iron Fist 2016
Story by Cpl. Garrett White
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – For more than 55 years, the United States and Japan have been security treaty allies. For years, the U.S. Marine Corps and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force have been training together across the Pacific in support of the security treaty for the defense of Japan.
Exercise Iron Fist 2016 is one such opportunity, allowing Japanese soldiers to train with U.S. Marines to enhance their bilateral amphibious capabilities.
“Since 2006, Exercise Iron Fist has enabled Japanese soldiers to train with U.S. Marines on American soil to improve the planning, communications and conducting of combined amphibious operations,” said U.S. Marine Col. Clay C. Tipton, commanding officer of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. “In the short span of a decade, this exercise has allowed our two services to come together and practice amphibious operations at the platoon, company and battalion level.”
Exercise Iron Fist is the largest bilateral exercise conducted by I Marine Expeditionary Force. Over the course of this five week training exercise, U.S. Marines and Sailors, and their Japanese counterparts will train side–by–side to hone their skills in a broad spectrum of military tasks, to include combat marksmanship, military planning and fire support operations.
“I’m proud to be working alongside Col. Goto, Western Army Infantry Regiment commander,” Tipton said. “The soldiers of the Western Army have a strong reputation and I look forward to seeing them in action.”
Japanese soldiers and U.S. service-members of all ranks and jobs will be able to share their skills and abilities with one another, further strengthening not only their respective militaries, but their combined security as allied nations.
“I have been looking forward to this opportunity to train with the Marines here for a long time,” said JGSDF Col. Yoshiyuki Goto, Western Army Infantry Regiment commander. “Marines are very quick to make changes that are necessary to improve the quality of training. I recognize the U.S. Marines’ speed and flexibility is required for amphibious operations to be successfully completed.”
The first few weeks of Iron Fist will be spent aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., honing individual and small unit skills. Following this, training will move to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., to take advantage of the large training facilities to conduct live-fire ranges and company level bilateral attacks. The final phase of training will see Japanese soldiers and U.S. Marines embark on the USS Somerset (LPD 25) and conduct ship-to-shore movements, a Supporting Arms Coordinating Center Exercise (SACCEX) and a battalion level Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX).
“SACCEX will have our [Japanese] soldiers, and [U.S.] Marines executing an amphibious movement to San Clemente Island,” explained Tipton, “then executing fires with rotary wing, fixed wing and indirect fire weapons.
“PHIBLEX is the culminating training evolution,” Tipton added. “This is where the previous four weeks of training will pay dividends. Japanese soldiers and U.S. Marines will be coming off the USS Somerset in Amphibious Assault Vehicles and Landing Craft Air Cushions to conduct an amphibious assault, which will transition to a ground operation to secure an inland objective.”
This training exercise is designed to not only strengthen the security and relationship between U.S. and Japanese, but to facilitate the establishment of a JGSDF Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade by 2018.
“We recognize the capabilities for rapid response, emergency situation, and conflict prevention of an amphibious rapid deployment brigade,” said Goto. “Using the exceptional training environments on Camp Pendleton, it will really enhance our capabilities to conduct amphibious operations with the U.S. Marine Corps.”
Over the course of the next five weeks, the U.S. and Japanese forces seek to learn and share as much as possible with one another, enhancing the readiness and compounded strength our relationship provides.
“As security treaty allies, it is important for U.S. Marines and sailors to have working relationships with our Japanese military counterparts to continue honing our amphibious operations core competencies,” said Col. Tipton. “Credible, ready maritime forces help to preserve peace and prevent conflict.”