U.S. Army and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers began a two-week training exercise Monday to learn how to better fight together.

About 500 U.S. soldiers, including infantry troops from Hawaii and the 35th Supply Services Battalion from Camp Zama, Japan, joined 1,100 Japanese 43rd Infantry Regiment, 8th Division, Western Army troops on Kyushu Island for Exercise Orient Shield ’04.

Army Maj. Randy Cephus, exercise spokesman, said one of the main reasons for the training is to show, “we are committed to the defense of Japan.”

Cephus said the Zama troops are providing food service, preparing exercise sites and controlling the flow of personnel in and out of the area, as well as other logistical chores.

The first half of the exercise consists of “bilateral functional training” including platoon-level live-fire events, reflexive fire techniques and qualification weapons firing, Cephus said. In addition, specialty platoon training is planned for scouts, anti-tank, engineer, mortar communications and medical platoons.

“We will also be learning how to fire each other’s weapons with qualified individuals assisting and a number of translators that we brought to the exercise,” he said.

During the second week of training, units conduct company-level training in which participants perform an array of infantry tasks, with specialty platoons providing support.

Cephus said the exercise isn’t entirely about the United States instructing the other participants in military techniques.

“It works both ways, especially when it comes to the area of leadership training and techniques,” he said.

“Their techniques are very different than ours, but the results are much the same. The JGSDF are very disciplined troops, as ours are, and they are also very motivated.”

Other Orient Shield activities include a cultural exchange program to include recreational events and home visits.

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