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Press Release
October 23, 2006
Oregon National Guard Soldiers to return from Japan this weekend
Oregon National Guard press release
Oct. 24, 2006
Sometimes winning a fight means making a friend
Oregon Guardsmen to return from Japan this weekend
SEKIYAMA MANEUVER AREA, Japan – "You go away. No come in town," 1st Sgt. Robert Hanks said to members of his own Oregon National Guard unit. "We no trust you. Go away."
Those words were the only ones the Soldiers of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry could understand when they came upon a mock village during a patrol in the jungles of Japan's Sekiyama Maneuver Area Monday.
Hanks and members of the battalion's mortar section were role-playing rural villagers and, except for a few choice words, were not speaking in English. The hostile attitude, however, was easily understood by the Oregon Soldiers.
"We don't want any trouble, but there is suspected enemy activity in this area," Alpha Commander 1st Lt. Cory Jones replied to the villagers, offering them a Gatorade. "We are here to help you."
About 240 Oregon citizen Soldiers deployed to Japan last week for Orient Shield 2007, an annual, bilateral training exercise with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force.
Last week's training was focused on individual tasks such weapons training, running a traffic control point, short range marksmanship and close quarters combat. Sunday, the focused switched to collective training, including recon and surveillance and cordon and search operations. The training is conducted bilaterally with Japan's 2nd Infantry Battalion, 1st Airborne Brigade.
The mortar section, playing not only civilians on the battlefield but also an insurgent enemy force, added a combat-realistic touch to the training. Like the Oregon unit faced when it deployed to Iraq in 2004, the enemy does not wear a uniform, and the same person that shakes your hand one day could be the one who places an improvised explosive device on your main supply route the next.
"The training's been phenomenal, amazing," Jones, a Corvallis resident, said after returning back to base Monday. "This is by far the best training we have done in the last year. It's very realistic."
Japan Sniper School
2nd Bn., 162nd Inf.'s sniper section is also in Japan participating in Orient Shield. The Oregon snipers are helping to stand-up the first sniper section in the Japanese regular army since World War II.
Sniper school for infantrymen in the United States is three-to-five weeks, but here the Oregon soldiers have little more than a week to get their Japanese counterparts proficient in the sniper mission, which is to provide highly effective fires from a long distance and gather and report intelligence information.
The troops spent the first several days of Orient Shield in the classroom, learning sniper roles and responsibilities, fundamentals of marksmanship, range estimation, sniper tasks, camouflage, observation, rapid-target engagement and movement techniques, among others. They then went to the range to practice on their M-24 sniper rifle, the weapon used by U.S. Army snipers and the weapon chosen by the Japanese army for their snipers.
"I feel very honored to be over here training the first snipers this Japanese Airborne Brigade has had since World War II," said Waldport resident Sgt. Nathan Gushwa, the only 2-162 sniper to experience combat as an sniper. "That to me is a real honor."
The Japanese soldiers "have been very attentive," added Spc. Ryan Welch, a 2-162 sniper from Eugene. "They are asking very smart questions, especially with the language barrier. They are eager and disciplined. Really, they've been the ideal students."
While the Japanese have not had snipers in some time, most every infantry unit in the United States Army has them. The Oregon sharpshooters say being a sniper is the pinnacle of infantry soldiering.
"Amongst ranks in the infantry, to be sent to sniper school means you are above the rest, and once you get back to your unit, you know you are working with the best," said Staff Sgt. Shane Ward, a sniper from Alsea.
Sgt. Aaron McNelly, a Newburg resident, said he became a sniper for the freedom.
"You are given a lot more freedom to complete the mission then you do in a regular line unit," he said. "You are told what they want done, but then you are given the autonomy to go out and accomplish that mission."
McNelly, who is half Japanese, translated the sniper curriculum with the help of his grandmother, who lives in Japan.
"It's interesting to come back to Japan because my grandfather actually fought in World War II with the Japanese," he said. "I've also got a cousin who is currently in the Japanese army."
Strengthening a Bond
To promote good will and mutual understanding between the two countries, the Oregon Soldiers are encouraged to not only train with their Japanese counterparts but also bond with them, which they have done with vigor and aplomb.
Before the first day of training, the Guardsmen were treated to a party with traditional Japanese food and drink, and during the first week of training, soldiers from both countries shared stories and laughs at the "friendship tent."
During a break in the exercise Saturday, many of the Americans were treated to a tour of Kasuyagama Castle, former home of Lord Uesugi Kenshin, The Soldiers also toured a rice and sake factory, where they were able to see both the traditional and modern ways of making sake and buy gifts for the relatives back home.
A highlight of the Japanese deployment for many of the Oregon troops was Saturday night's home visit. Families and organizations from the area invited many of the troops into the homes to experience Japanese culture and hospitality.
The Takata and Takata East Rotary clubs sponsored four Oregon Guardsmen, treating them to a traditional tea party and meal, complete with geishas.
"That was probably the most amazing experience of my life," Gresham resident Pvt. Brain Davis said after the visit. "I love Japan."
Based on the results of a recent poll of Japanese conducted by the U.S. Embassy in Japan, the Japanese return that love.
According to the poll, 80 percent of Japanese favor the alliance with the United States, and 73 percent said a U.S. military presence is needed in the area to maintain peace and stability.
"The relationships that are being built down at the junior Soldier level are a significant part of this exercise," 2-162 commander Lt. Col. Edward Tanguy said. "Obviously what we do at the higher levels with the bilateral coordination is important, but what is really important is when you see the young Japanese soldiers and the young American Soldiers -- even though they can't speak each other's language -- sitting down sharing a lunch, laughing together, sharing their experiences, trading (uniform) patches and things like that. That's where we are really making our money and that's the real benefit."
Returning Home
Orient Shield concludes Wednesday, and all who deployed will be home by Saturday.
Three of the 2-162's companies -- Eugene-based Alpha Company., Gresham-based Headquarters Co. and Cottage Grove-based Charlie, along with a few soldiers from Hillsboro-based Delta and Eugene-based Echo Company – deployed to Japan for Orient Shield.
The Oregon citizen Soldiers who participated in this exercise are from the following areas: Albany, Aloha, Alsea, Banks, Beavercreek, Beaverton, Boring, Brownsville, Camas, Cheshire, Clackamas, Colton, Coos Bay, Cornelius, Corvallis, Cottage Grove, Creswell, Dallas, Dorena, Elmira, Eugene, Florence, Gaston, Gladstone, Goshen, Gresham, Harrisburg, Hermiston, Hillsboro, Hood River, Independence, Junction City, Keizer, Lacey, Lebanon, Longview, McMinnville, Milwaukee, Molalla, Monroe, Newberg, Oakridge, Oregon City, Philomath, Pleasant Hill, Port Angeles, Portland, Puyallup, Redding, Roseburg, Salem, Sandy, Seal Rock, Seattle, Shelton, Springfield, St. Helens, Stayton, The Dalles, Tigard, Toledo, Troutdale, Vancouver, Veneta, Vernonia, Waldport, West Lake, White Salmon and Yoncalla.
For more information or to contact a citizen Soldier who deployed to Japan from your area, contact the Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office at 503-584-3917.
Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Russell Bassett, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
OS Civilians: 1st Sgt. Robert Hanks with the Oregon National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry role-plays a civilian on the battlefield, as Alpha Company commander 1st Lt. Cory Jones and others try and figure out how to best handle the situation Monday during cordon and search training at Sekiyama Maneuver Area, Japan.
OS On Patrol: Spc. David Glasscock of Beaverton conducts a recon and surveillance mission with other members of Alpha Company, 2-162 Inf. during Orient Shield 2007, an annual, bilateral training exercise with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force.
OS On Patrol 2: Members of A Co., 2-162 patrol through a remote area of Japan on Monday. The village where possible mock enemy insurgents were hiding can be seen in the left background.
OS Snipers: OS Snipers: Staff Sgt. Shane Ward of Alsea observes targets for Japanese sharpshooters during Orient Shield sniper training Oct. 19. The sniper section of the Oregon National Guard's 2-162 Inf. are helping to stand-up the first sniper section in the Japanese regular army since World War II.
OS Cultural Tea Party: Vancouver resident Pvt Dustin Morgan (left) and Eugene resident Spc. Brandon Garner enjoy a traditional Japanese tea party during the home visit Saturday evening.
OS SRM 2: Oregon National Guard Soldier Spc. Alvaro Castaneda (left) of Springfield shares a Tootsie Roll with a member of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (right), as Spc. Orlo Flock of Eugene (second from left) and Sgt. James Cutshall of Elmira watch. Many Oregon National Guard Soldiers are establishing lasting friendships with their Japanese counterparts during the bilateral training and cultural exchanges of Orient Shield.
Contact Info:
Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office
Kay Fristad
cell 503-931-5179
Capt. Michael Braibish