La. Guardsmen share Iraq lessons at Orient Shield
February 5, 2009
When members of the 2/108 Cavalry Squadron deployed to Iraq in 2004, little did they know that years later they would be passing down lessons learned to members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
Participating in Orient Shield, a U.S. Army Japan and JGSDF field training exercise, members of the National Guard unit from Shreveport, La., brought their wartime knowledge to the Ohyanohara Exercise Area on the island of Kyushu, where they trained with Japanese troops.
The nine days of training, which wrapped up Tuesday, is one of four major exercises the United States and Japan conduct together each year.
Such exercises are ideal for training smaller units, explained Maj. Gen. Frank Wiercinski, USARJ commanding general.
"It gives soldiers an opportunity to work together on the ground," he said. "Where the rubber meets the road.
Orient Shield, which comprised 379 U.S. and 720 Japanese soldiers, tests the always important question in any military partnership: "Can we fight together?" Wiercinski said.
Training included weapons familiarization, combat lifesaving skills, sniper training and close-quarters combat, said Lt. Col. William Rachal, squadron commander of the 2/108.
"We’ve learned a lot from each other," Sgt. Michael S. Iman, a member of C Troop, 2/108 Cavalry Squadron, said of training with Japanese soldiers.
Iman, one of the sniper and close-quarters combat trainers, said that although a lot of the tactics and techniques used by both militaries are very similar, the Japanese were eager to learn from those with combat experience.
"The U.S. Army has experience, and the [JGSDF] gets to learn from that experience," said Lt. Col. Yoshio Furihata, training chief for the 8th Infantry Division of the JGSDF Western Army. The combat lifesaving and sniper lessons learned by U.S. troops in Iraq were especially beneficial, he said.
For Iman, the most rewarding part of the exercise was the time spent building bonds with his Japanese counterparts, including having dinner at the home of a Japanese servicemember.
"It’s still a little mind-blowing to me," he said, "that 60 years ago we were fighting each other and now we’re fighting alongside one another."