More than 1,600 Japanese and U.S. servicemembers begin combined, full combat training near Osaka, Japan, on Monday during the annual Forest Light exercise.

Members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force’s 36th Infantry Regiment from Osaka’s Itami Station and Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, based at Okinawa’s Camp Schwab, will participate.

The 14-day exercise strengthens cooperation through real-world training, according to a JGSDF news release. Marines and Japanese forces will practice firing shoulder-mounted anti-armor missiles, machine guns, mortars and handguns.

Marines will also be invited to stay with Japanese families to learn about Japanese culture, U.S. officials said.

The semi-cold weather training emphasizes infantry and communications skills, and will include cross-training exercises, according to Marine officials.

The Marine battalion includes 850 Marines; the Japanese regiment has 800. The Marines recently conducted live-fire training at Camp Fuji, Japan. The battalion, from Camp Lejeune, N.C. is deployed to Okinawa.

This is the seventh exercise of its kind since 1986. It runs Oct. 27 through Nov. 9.

The exercise takes place at the Aibano Maneuver area and Imadu station in the Shiga Prefecture. Both nations will supply helicopters and combat support personnel.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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