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The U.S. Army and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force are about to step back into the icy cold.

They’re both gearing up for North Wind, a weeklong field exercise to begin Tuesday at Camp Makomanai in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. About 400 U.S. soldiers and 400 troops from Japan’s northern army will participate.

It’s one of four major drills the two militaries engage in annually. The others are Yama Sakura, Orient Shield and Rising Warrior.

"We want them to be familiar working with each other in the defense of Japan, just in case we have to do the real thing someday," said Maj. Jim Crawford, a USARJ spokesman. "Hopefully, it never comes to that. But it’s always better to be prepared."

The Kentucky Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment will assume the U.S. role in training scenarios. USARJ is hosting North Wind, while 10th Support Group elements from mainland Japan and Okinawa provide logistics.

JGSDF participants are assigned to the 18th Infantry Regiment.

"The primary task of this operation is to conduct platoon- and company-level training," said Capt. Robert Diaz, a planner for USARJ’s training exercise staff element. "It’s also about relationship building with the JGSDF."

Trudging through heavy snow and freezing temperatures, U.S. soldiers and Japanese troops will rehearse passing through enemy lines, establishing perimeters, sniper operations, cold-weather survival and ski training. Diaz said battalion staff will focus on operations planning.

Infantry units also could face scenarios involving attack, base defense and ambush tactics, according to Crawford. Socials, home visits and cultural exchanges also will be part of North Wind, officials said.

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