US, Japanese forces trade aircraft during semi-annual Forest Light drills
By LEON COOK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 15, 2017
CAMP SOUMAGAHARA, Japan — Okinawa-based U.S. servicemembers have joined Japanese troops in central Japan for training that includes air assaults from MV-22 Ospreys and CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
Six hundred Marines and sailors from the III Marine Expeditionary Force are taking part in the 12-day, semi-annual Exercise Forest Light, which wraps up Friday at the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Camp Soumagahara in Gunma prefecture.
The Americans are working with Japanese personnel on basic infantry skills such as marksmanship, unarmed combat, air mobility and air assault operations that involved Marines flying in Japanese aircraft and Japanese soldiers flying in the Ospreys.
“Every second counts during an air-mobile or air-assault mission, so being familiar with each other’s equipment is a great advantage to have,” said 1st Lt. Michael Maggitti, a Marine Corps spokesman.
Even knowing how the aircraft’s harness fastens can make a difference, shaving valuable seconds off a combat drop, he said.
Participants practiced sliding down ropes to the ground from each other’s hovering aircraft. During one part of the training, Marines disembarked from a Japanese Chinook and secured a zone so their Japanese counterparts could land safely.
After treating a simulated casualty, the troops guided an Osprey’s landing and evacuated the patient.
The U.S. servicemembers also spent time exploring Gunma prefecture, checking out local landmarks and visiting homes.
“Marines getting a chance to see the local houses and visit people’s homes further builds the trust amongst the Japanese people and the Americans,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Hoyle, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.
Forest Light training is also underway at the colder, more mountainous Sekiyama Training Area in Niigata Prefecture, officials said.