|Shielding the Orient: Oregon National Guard citizen soldiers train with the Japanese Army
NIIGATA, Japan – As the world watches North Korea, which tested a nuclear weapon Oct. 9, members of the Oregon National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry are demonstrating the strong partnership between the United States and Japan.
Orient Shield 2007, an annual training exercise between the U.S. and Japanese armies began Monday with an opening ceremony at the Sekiyama Maneuver Area in Honshu, Japan.
"This exercise will be an opportunity to enhance Japanese Ground Self Defense Force/U.S. Army combat readiness and demonstrate to Asia the alliance between our countries," 2nd Bn., 162nd Inf. Commander Lt. Col. Edward Tanguy said during the ceremony. "By the end of the exercise, we all will achieve enduring bilateral relationships, good will and mutual understanding … through tough training and cultural exchange."
Tanguy's counterpart for the exercise, Japan's 2nd Infantry Battalion, 1st Airborne Brigade commander Lt. Col. Shizuo Sekine also focused on strengthening the relationship between the two countries in his speech to the approximately 240 Oregon and 350 Japanese soldiers assembled for the opening ceremony.
"At this time, we establish the occasion for both Japan and the U.S. to make groups and conduct the training with close cooperation," Sekine said.
Monday evening, the soldiers from both units worked on achieving mutual understanding at a party held in nearby Joetsu. The language difference was no barrier, as the soldiers enjoyed traditional Japanese food and drink together.
"There's a feeling of unity between the two organizations, and that was seen at last night's opening party," Eugene resident and 2-162's operations noncommissioned officer Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Glesmann said. "There is a respect there. They are definitely very disciplined and extremely organized"
The training began in earnest the next morning with helicopter and traffic control point operations.
The Oregon citizen Soldiers have much experience conducting traffic checkpoints, as the operations were a regular part of the routine in 2004 when the unit was in Baghdad for Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
Several of the Japanese soldiers also bring experience from tours in Iraq. Japan deployed about 600 soldiers to Iraq in early 2004. The deployment marked a significant turning point in Japan's history, as it was the first time since the end of World War II that Japan sent troops abroad except for a few minor UN peacekeeping missions.
Japan redeployed its troops from Iraq this summer.
"The TCP (traffic control point) ops we learned in Iraq, we're teaching to the Japanese," Glesmann said. "They have a way of doing it as well, but we are showing them the ways that we did it Iraq."
"You can train and train and train, but there is a perspective you learn in combat that you just can't get if you don't deploy," Tanguy added.
In Iraq, 2-162 was responsible for maintaining an area of operations in Baghdad, and was involved in fighting in Fallujah and Najaf. Members of the unit were also responsible for training the Iraqi army. The unit captured more than 100 insurgents and 300 weapons caches while in Iraq.
After the first day of training in Japan, Tanguy was pleased with what he saw.
"It's been great," the commander said. "All the Soldiers are really engaged with their Japanese counterparts, more so than I thought at this point in the exercise."
Up next for the Oregon citizen Soldiers is training on individual weapons and then cordon and search procedures.
During Saturday's short break in the training, they will get to experience Japanese culture through tours and home visits with Japanese families.
"They'll get a greater understanding of another culture and a greater appreciation of the diverse world we live in, which will have an impact, I think, on their home communities," Tanguy concluded. "The people back home should know that their Guard Soldiers are representing Oregon and the U.S. very well. They can be proud of them."
Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Russell Bassett, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
OS Ceremony 1: Lt. Col. Edward Tanguy (right), commander of the Oregon National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, shakes hands with Lt. Col. Shizuo Sekine, commander of Japan's 2nd Infantry Battalion, 1st Airborne Brigade during the Orient Shield 2007 opening ceremony Monday at Sekiyama Maneuver Area, Japan
OS Ceremony 2: Oregon National Guard and Japan Ground Self Defense Force troops salute the U.S. and Japanese flags during the Orient Shield opening ceremony Monday.
OS Helo Ops: Members of C Company, 2-162 Inf. disembark from a helicopter during Orient Shield's first day of training Tuesday.
OS New Friends: Pfc. Adam Comella (right), of Gresham shares a laugh with privates Akihiro Saito and Koji Hakado during the welcome party Monday evening. Many of Oregon National Guard Soldiers exchanged gifts with the Japanese soldiers during the party.
OS TCP Ops: Oregon National Guard Soldiers role play for Japanese soldiers during Traffic Control Point training Tuesday. Many of the Guardsman deployed to Iraq in 2004 and passed on the knowledge learned there to their Japanese counterparts.
Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office
Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy