U.S.-Japan Exercises Underscore New Strategy Guidance Focus

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2012 — Two bilat­er­al com­mand post exer­cis­es with Japan kicked off yes­ter­day and today, reflect­ing the grow­ing strate­gic impor­tance of the Asia-Pacif­ic region as out­lined in the new defense strat­e­gy guid­ance Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma announced ear­li­er this month.

Japan­ese and U.S. mil­i­tary forces launched Keen Edge 12 yes­ter­day at Yoko­ta, Japan. The bien­ni­al exer­cise con­tin­ues through Jan. 27.

Today, Exer­cise Yama Saku­ra kicked off, with oper­a­tions to run through Feb. 5. Both exer­cis­es are designed to increase inter­op­er­abil­i­ty of U.S. and Japan­ese forces and their readi­ness to defend against exter­nal threats, offi­cials said.

By pro­vid­ing real­is­tic, com­bined and joint train­ing that enhances both coun­tries’ com­bat readi­ness pos­ture, they in turn pro­vide for region­al sta­bil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Bill Clin­ton, a U.S. Pacif­ic Com­mand spokesman.

“These reg­u­lar engage­ments show­case our com­mit­ment to peace and secu­ri­ty in the region and to the pro­tec­tion of U.S. inter­ests and those of our part­ners and allies,” he said.

Keen Edge his­tor­i­cal­ly has been part of an annu­al exer­cise series that alter­nates between field train­ing exer­cis­es, called Keen Sword, and com­mand-and-con­trol exer­cis­es.

About 500 U.S. per­son­nel and about 1,380 Japan­ese forces are par­tic­i­pat­ing in this year’s CPX, dur­ing which head­quar­ters staffs will use com­put­er sim­u­la­tions to prac­tice steps they would take in the event of a cri­sis or con­tin­gency.

Par­tic­i­pants will prac­tice respond­ing to events rang­ing from non-com­bat­ant evac­u­a­tions and force-pro­tec­tion sce­nar­ios to inte­grat­ed air and mis­sile defense to enhance bilat­er­al coor­di­na­tion and coop­er­a­tion, offi­cials said.

Forces involved will use the com­put­er-based Joint The­ater Lev­el Sim­u­la­tion Sys­tem to direct and respond to exer­cise events. This sys­tem, offi­cials report­ed, helps pro­vide a real­is­tic envi­ron­ment for com­man­ders and staffs as they react and respond in real time to events gen­er­at­ed by com­put­er sim­u­la­tion.

U.S. par­tic­i­pants in Keen Edge 2012 hail from U.S. Forces Japan head­quar­ters; 13th Air Force, with head­quar­ters at Hick­am Air Force Base, Hawaii, and in Japan through its Detach­ment 1; U.S. Naval Forces Japan; U.S. Army Japan; and Marine Forces Japan.

Mean­while, near­ly 800 U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel and more than 3,500 Japan­ese forces are par­tic­i­pat­ing in Yama Saku­ra, the largest bilat­er­al exer­cise between the U.S. Army Pacif­ic and Japan­ese ground forces since the Great Tohoku Earth­quake in March.

About 150 U.S. sol­diers from the 8th Army head­quar­ters ele­ment at Yongsan Gar­ri­son, South Korea, will serve as the high­er com­mand for par­tic­i­pat­ing U.S. forces, which include mem­bers of U.S. Army Japan.

The exer­cise, offi­cials said, will focus on bilat­er­al and joint plan­ning, coor­di­na­tion and inter­op­er­abil­i­ty of ground-based ele­ments of the U.S. and Japan secu­ri­ty alliance.

Offi­cials called these com­mand post exer­cis­es a cost-effec­tive way to pro­vide par­tic­i­pants real­is­tic and unob­tru­sive train­ing in a sim­u­lat­ed cri­sis or con­tin­gency oper­a­tion while improv­ing their abil­i­ty to work togeth­er.

Dur­ing senior-lev­el talks between U.S. and Japan­ese mil­i­tary lead­ers last month about future oper­a­tions and engage­ment between the two coun­tries, Air Force Lt. Gen. Ted Kres­ge, 13th Air Force com­man­der, said inter­op­er­abil­i­ty strength­ens the bilat­er­al alliance.

Kres­ge not­ed the suc­cess of the human­i­tar­i­an relief mis­sion after a mas­sive 8.9 mag­ni­tude earth­quake and tsuna­mi struck Japan last March. Amer­i­can aid to the Japan­ese ulti­mate­ly includ­ed 20 ships, includ­ing the air­craft car­ri­er USS Ronald Rea­gan, almost 20,000 per­son­nel and huge amounts of sup­plies and heavy equip­ment.

“As was demon­strat­ed dur­ing Oper­a­tion Tomodachi, there is tremen­dous val­ue added in work­ing and exer­cis­ing side-by-side,” Kres­ge said. “When real-world events occur, we are bet­ter able to oper­ate in a joint envi­ron­ment and respond effec­tive­ly and effi­cient­ly.”

Mean­while, 8th Army offi­cials said Exer­cise Yama Saku­ra helps to ensure its abil­i­ty to oper­ate with its oth­er U.S. and Japan­ese coun­ter­parts to defend South Korea as well as main­tain region­al secu­ri­ty.

“This exer­cise improves 8th Army’s abil­i­ty to deter or defeat aggres­sion on the Kore­an penin­su­la,” said Army Brig. Gen. David J. Con­boy, 8th Army’s deputy com­man­der. “It also helps strength­en the Repub­lic of Korea-Unit­ed States alliance by enabling crit­i­cal staff coor­di­na­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion at the multi­na­tion­al lev­el.”

Clin­ton said engage­ments like these sup­port the new defense strat­e­gy guid­ance that rec­og­nizes the chal­lenges as well as oppor­tu­ni­ties in Asia and the Pacif­ic.

That strate­gic guid­ance, announced ear­li­er this month, pro­vides a strate­gic vision intend­ed to guide the mil­i­tary through 2020 with its heavy focus on the region.

“Through con­tin­u­ous eval­u­a­tion of our force pos­ture and engage­ment activ­i­ties, we will work with our region­al part­ners and allies to main­tain the mil­i­tary strength to pro­tect our inter­ests, defend our allies and deter poten­tial adver­saries from acts of aggres­sion and intim­i­da­tion,” Clin­ton said.

U.S. rela­tion­ships with Asian allies and key part­ners will remain crit­i­cal to the region’s future sta­bil­i­ty and growth, Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard, U.S. Pacif­ic Command’s com­man­der, told the Annu­al Hawaii Mil­i­tary Part­ner­ship Con­fer­ence on Jan. 6, the day after the guid­ance was announced.

In addi­tion to strength­en­ing exist­ing alliances that have pro­vid­ed a vital foun­da­tion for region­al secu­ri­ty, Willard said, the Unit­ed States also will strive to forge clos­er ties with emerg­ing region­al part­ners.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)