The soaring mountains and thick mud of northwest Niigata Prefecture acted as a host to countless iterations on these scenes from December 7 through 17 as part of exercise Forest Light Eastern Army, the latest in the long-running bilateral exercise with the United States Marine Corps.
U.S. Marines are strengthening they’re training for a possible conflict with China by conducting island war simulations in islands off of Japan, placing an emphasis on small and dispersed troop units.
Five hundred members of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., are working with 400 troops from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s 30th Infantry Regiment, their commander, Lt. Col. Neil Berry, said in a telephone interview Sunday from Camp Fuji, outside Tokyo.
The Forest Light exercise which includes about 100 Marines from the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and six MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265.
The troops drilled together on the tactics, techniques, and procedures required to seize and defend key maritime terrain – from the individual marksmanship, unmanned aerial systems operations, and intelligence collections to planning and coordination of airborne assaults and distributed maritime defensive operations.
Fighting alongside someone who doesn’t speak the same language isn’t unusual for the Marines, he said.
“Over the last 20 years we’ve been doing it in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said the veteran of deployments to Afghanistan in 2005 and 2010.
“We are not dealing with Afghans with the JGSDF,” he said. “These guys are capable. They are lethal. We are going to learn some stuff from them.”
The exercises have come as the Pentagon have pointed to China as a growing threat, expanding its territorial reach by building islands in the South China Sea and improving their military.