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One of the Army’s major training events in Japan, Yama Sakura, will kick off Monday at Camp Sendai.

The bilateral training exercise, which has been held annually since 1982, focuses on strengthening the military capabilities and ties between the U.S. Army and the Japan Self-Defense Force, said Maj. Jim Crawford, a U.S. Army Japan spokesman.

Roughly 3,500 Japanese and 2,000 U.S. servicemembers will take part in the command-level exercise that simulates the defense of Japan, Crawford said.

The U.S. Army’s I Corps and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force’s Northeast Army are the primary players in the exercise.

Other units participating or providing logistical support for the event include USARJ staff and units, U.S. Army Pacific staff, III Marine Expeditionary Force, various Navy and Air Force elements, several Army National Guard and Reserve units and staff from the Battle Command Training Program in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

“In the past there was more emphasis placed on the bilateral portion of the exercise,” said Crawford. “But in recent years this has become a premier training event for both U.S. and Japanese forces.”

The training, which runs through Dec. 16, focuses on real-world scenarios, from deployment operations and unit placement to interacting with the media or responding to a fratricide, Crawford said.

“Everything that would happen in reality would happen here,” he said.

Yama Sakura began as a simple table-top war game, but by 1993 it had transformed into a high-tech, computer-based command exercise, he said.

“The training here is the same that all U.S. Army corps receive,” Crawford said.

He added that both militaries have different operation procedures and methods, not to mention different languages, so being able to work together is vital if the two forces were ever to become a combined force.

This is the first Yama Sakura exercise in which the USARJ commander, Maj. Gen. Elbert N. Perkins, also has had the role of the I Corps deputy commander, a role assigned to him as a result of the recent transformation and creation of I Corps’ new forward headquarters element at Camp Zama.

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