Japan Air, Ground forces team with the U.S. in security exercise
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Security officials say they’re happy with two major changes they made to an annual force protection exercise conducted here late last week.
For the first time, "Exercise Guard and Protect" was run on a 24-hour cycle — beginning 4 p.m. Thursday — instead of just one training shift. And, officials say, it was the first time they’ve manned a base defense operations center with members of both air and ground Japan Self-Defense Forces and U.S. airmen.
"It’s impressive," 35th Fighter Wing commander Col. David Stilwell said while watching a vehicle checkpoint demonstration by members of Japan’s 9th Division, 5th Infantry Regiment late Friday morning.
Stilwell said that if the need ever arose for an increased security presence on his base, the 9th Division and members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s 3rd Air Wing would assist.
Senior Master Sgt. Donald Baribeault, superintendent of operations and training with the 35th Security Forces Squadron, said the exercise aims to get the Japanese forces familiar with the terrain and security roles they’d have on the base.
About 150 Japanese and U.S. members focused on terrorist counter-surveillance, vehicle searches and providing perimeter security.
The Japanese forces’ role was to provide detection and detention, and to then call U.S. troops to respond to the scene, Baribeault said.
A 9th Division spokesman called the training a rare opportunity.
It’s not "something that we can have every day," Maj. Issei Nishino said during a phone interview Friday. "The training provides us with a great opportunity to work together and coordinate with the U.S. military, which is critically important to fulfill our mission."
Baribeault said the exercise, first held in 2003, has progressed from "a crawl, walk type of pace" and is now "going into the run pace."
Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumidacontributed to this story.