U.S. helps prep Japanese troops for Iraq
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — U.S. troops who have deployed to Iraq spent Wednesday teaching Japan Ground and Air Self-Defense Forces personnel how to stay alive during upcoming deployments.
Lt. Col. Gus Green, the 18th Security Forces Squadron commander, told the Japanese forces they need to be prepared mentally for duty in Iraq — and for the possibility of being shot at.
“You hear about it, see it — but until someone takes a shot at you in anger … it’s a wake-up call,” Green told more than a dozen participants who represented a ground unit and 10 air units.
“You have to be in the right mental state to deal with that threat. You’ll be more dangerous than helpful if you do go in without the right mind-set.”
Green’s troops taught the Japanese about patrolling with all-terrain vehicles, using security camera systems, beefing up vehicles and the dangers of improvised explosive devices.
Green began the day by showing the Japanese how his unit improved vehicle safety using body armor vests, sandbags and Kevlar blankets.
“I learned more in Iraq than in 18 years of service,” he said.
“I want to give them all the information we have so they can be more effective. And hopefully, we’ll learn something from them when they get back.”
Green, in Iraq from July to November 2003, was assigned to defend a base near Kirkuk.
He said the best advice he could give the Japanese units was to prepare before stepping foot in Iraq.
“Training … you have to do it before you get there,” Green said. “When you hit the ground, you’re so busy you don’t have time. With some of my forces, it took several weeks before they were ‘war ready.’”
Senior Master Sgt. Michael Hatfield, of the Explosive Ordnance Division Flight, told the Japanese they must learn to recognize improvised explosive devices, that being able to recognize the shapes of the weapons could help troops distinguish between munitions and garbage.
He said such improvised explosive devices — along with mortar and rocket attacks — will be the biggest threat to Japanese forces.
Green said children holding such devices approached his troops almost daily.
“You have to decide if they’re trying to harm you” or simply want to turn the devices over to soldiers, he said.