Battling more than just enemy forces, North Wind 2008 lived up to its chilly reputation as U.S. and Japanese troops also faced cold temperatures and a lot of snow.

An annual field exercise between the U.S. Army and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, North Wind was held March 3-16 at Camp Iwate in northern Japan. Taking part in the training were about 400 JGSDF troops from the Japanese 5th Infantry Regiment, 9th Division and about 170 soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, U.S. Army Japan and 1-297th Battalion, 207th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade.

“The first week we were there, we were knee-deep in snow,” Lt. Col. Seth Sherwood, 35th CSSB commander and task force commander for North Wind, said Wednesday.

Sherwood said the battalion served as the command-and-control element for this year’s exercise.

“We’re the unit that normally supplies the life support to the exercise, so this was a first for us,” said Capt. Jason Book, battalion operations officer.

Even though the battalion might not normally be the unit leading infantry soldiers into battle, Sherwood said, training on such combat skills is important.

“In today’s environment, everything is tactical,” he said. “There’s no such thing as an administrative move anymore.”

However, North Wind isn’t just about staff exercises and operations orders. Plenty of opportunities exist for combat troops to hone their skills in a wintry setting.

Throughout the exercise, infantry soldiers from the Alaska National Guard and the JGSDF practiced room clearing, maneuvering in the snow and other infantry skills, while mortar units from Japan and the Florida National Guard tested firing skills.

The units also took part in a large-scale search operation in a mock town. Sherwood said U.S. infantry troops assaulted and cordoned off the area and Japanese soldiers conducted a door-to-door search. At the same time, U.S. and Japanese mortar units and Japanese armor and air assets provided support, he said.

“There was a lot of good interaction,” he said.

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