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During the Active Shield exercise at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, Japan, on Thursday, the station’s Special Reaction Team and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force Rangers respond to a simulated hostage situation.
During the Active Shield exercise at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, Japan, on Thursday, the station’s Special Reaction Team and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force Rangers respond to a simulated hostage situation. (Anthony Adamson / Courtesy of Iwakuni MCAS)

Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station personnel and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force wrapped up the final exercise of Active Shield for 2004 on Thursday.

The training began Tuesday and involved about 100 of JGSDF’s 13th Brigade, 46th Infantry Regiment troops and about 90 U.S. Marines, including Iwakuni’s Station Security Reaction Team.

The exercise was the second segment of Active Shield this year, and the fourth overall, in the series designed to support Japan’s Self-Defense Law. The law, revised in October 2001, makes the JGSDF responsible for protecting U.S. military facilities during contingency operations.

“From my point of view, I’d have to say the exercise went flawlessly,” said Capt. Christopher Bushek, Iwakuni’s provost marshal, by telephone Friday.

“As far as the general planning and execution, there were no problems,” he said. “And if there is anything we are learning through these exercises that we could improve, I’d have to say it would be communication on the troop-to-troop level.”

For instance, when operating in a hostage situation, as in one of last week’s exercise scenarios, communication has more to do with knowing exactly what to do than it does actual language, Bushek said.

“We can get past the language barrier. It’s not really that much of a problem. What we are working on is knowing what we should do in particular situations,” he added.

“It’s about enhancing that ‘familiarity,’” he said. “It’s about knowing exactly what is being done, and exactly what happens next.”

Iwakuni leadership is responsible for the emergency security and force protection training measures in “Base Cluster Four” of five such clusters in Japan.

Iwakuni also is responsible for protection of three U.S. military facilities in Hiroshima Prefecture, including an ammunition depot in Edajima.

“The individual bases participate at various times during the year in Active Shield,” Capt. Richelle Dowdell, a U.S. Forces Japan spokeswoman, told Stars and Stripes before the exercise.

The first Active Shield exercise took place in 2003 in Iwakuni, and a second was held in September at Hiroshima facilities with about 70 JGSDF troops and 20 U.S. servicemembers.

“In 2005,” Bushek said, “there will be two more. The dates and locations have yet to be designated, except that one of those will be here.”

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