Marines, Japanese train on joint harbor patrols
They all have cool equipment, advanced training and a keen interest in safety and security. It was a natural fit to combine the resources of the Japanese National Police, Japanese Coast Guard and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni Provost Marshals Office into a safety and antiterrorism group.
In early 2005, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni became the first base in Japan to sign an official agreement with Japanese counterparts to coordinate safety and security assets.
The agreement has led to better training and better coordination during large bilateral training exercises and events such as the past two base Friendship Days, when more than 350,000 people visited the air station.
The coordination also has led to regular joint and bilateral patrols, when Navy and Marine Corps harbor and security officials combine forces with Japanese police or coast guard to conduct patrols of the 10-square-mile restricted waters near the base.
Officials say the coordination is even more essential as the station’s new runway nears completion.
The area is increasingly important to the U.S.-Japanese alliance, making security and antiterrorism even more important, said Andrew Samuels, Iwakuni’s antiterrorism officer.
The joint patrols survey Iwakuni’s sea zone and shipping lanes and escort naval vessels into Iwakuni’s port, he said.
On Friday, the U.S. side joined forces with the Japanese police boat division for one of the patrols.
For several hours, a crew of U.S. and Japanese law enforcement officers patrolled choppy waters, verified the registration of fishing boats and got practice working together.
The goal for both groups, said Provost Marshal Maj. Christopher Bushek, is protecting life, property and U.S. and Japanese interests.
“It’s not training, it’s real,” he said. “We’re actually checking real boats.”
Sea patrols are tricky because, unlike a car on a road, a speedboat can get away quickly in any direction, Bushek said.
The patrols look for lawbreakers such as people fishing illegally. They also protect servicemembers. Illegally cast fishing nets have snared Japanese military divers during training in the area, Bushek said.
He called Friday’s patrol a success because it verified the registration of all the fishing vessels in the area and because it continued the team cooperation.
“We’re one of the leaders in the Far East in terms of doing some of the training and exercises,” Bushek said.