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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The U.S. military and the Japan Self-Defense Force will link up Thursday to March 3 for a bilateral command-post exercise in which computer-generated “emergencies” are used to test reaction capabilities in real time.

Keen Edge, staged once every two years, involves nearly 4,600 participants, mostly personnel assigned to U.S. Forces Japan, the 5th Air Force, 7th Fleet, U.S. Army Japan, the III Marine Expeditionary Force and Commander, Naval Forces Japan.

During the drill, U.S. and Japanese officials use computer simulations to practice the steps they would take in an actual crisis or contingency, said Marine Master Sgt. Terence Peck, a USFJ spokesman.

“The purpose of the exercise is to increase combat readiness and interoperability of U.S. forces and Japan Self-Defense Forces,” he said.

“Part of the value of the exercise comes from the interaction.”

Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, the USFJ and 5th Air Force commander, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Gen. Hajime Massaki, chairman of the Joint Staff Council, will direct the exercise.

The Joint War- fighting Center in Suffolk, Va., is dispatching about 100 people to Japan for Keen Edge 2006.

They’ll act as training facilitators, providing computer systems, modeling and simulation.

Navy Cmdr. Jean-Pierre Bolat, USFJ’s chief of exercises, said planning began in fall 2004.

Yokota has been designated as Keen Edge’s central hub, but a small Joint Theater Level Simulation system also will be operated at Camp Ichigaya in Tokyo, the Japan Self-Defense Force headquarters.

“Incidents” can range from natural disasters to actual threats against Japan’s sovereignty, Bolat said.

“The most important thing is we exercise bilateral cooperation and we train together, and that goes a long way toward building the U.S.-Japan alliance in the region,” he added.

Keen Edge is part of an annual series of exercises between the U.S. and Japan that dates to 1986.

The two nations use Keen Sword, a field-training exercise, in odd fiscal years, to fortify the defense of Japan through scenarios incorporating air, ground and sea operations.

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