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Soldiers, Apaches, Black Hawks arrive in Japan for Orient Shield drills

An Alaska-based AH-64 Apache attack helicopter from 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment is parked at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Monday, Sept. 4, 2017.

SETH ROBSON/STARS AND STRIPES

By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 8, 2017

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Six hundred Alaska-based soldiers along with AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters are in Japan for annual drills amid tension over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

The members of the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, and helicopters from the division’s Combat Aviation Brigade will train alongside Japan Ground Self-Defense Force troops starting Monday during the annual two-week Orient Shield exercise.

Four Apaches were brought to Japan from Alaska in a C-17 cargo jet and 13 Black Hawks arrived from Hawaii at Yokohama North Dock on a cargo ship Friday, said Capt. Adam Bowen, a 1st Stryker Brigade spokesman.

The troops, including three infantry companies and support personnel and the aircraft, will train alongside Japanese soldiers from the 34th Infantry Regiment at East Fuji Maneuver Area, Bowen said.

During the drills, the attack helicopters will maneuver with ground troops and conduct live-fire training directly alongside them, Warrant Officer 2 John McCormick — a 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment Apache pilot — said in a phone interview from Camp Fuji on Thursday.

The aviators haven’t given a lot of thought to North Korea’s recent provocations, including firing a missile over Japan last month and testing a nuclear bomb Sept. 3, the 37-year-old Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-native said.

“We’re just focused on the mission at hand and making sure we are ready for anything,” McCormick said.

A key part of the training for the aviators will be learning to work seamlessly with the Japanese, who will bring their AH-1 Cobra and UH-1 Iroquois helicopters, he said.

“We’re going to try to support these guys as best we can,” added an-other Apache pilot, 1st Lt. Andrea Bagley, 25, of Thomasville, Ala.

robson.seth@stripes.com
Twitter: @SethRobson1

 

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