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Marine Col. Neil Owens, left, relieves Col. Robert Bodisch as commander of Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Japan, Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

Marine Col. Neil Owens, left, relieves Col. Robert Bodisch as commander of Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Japan, Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Karyann Mitchell/U.S. Army)

Col. Robert Bodisch finished his three years as commander of the Marine Corps’ expansive training center at the base of Mount Fuji on Tuesday, a term that included a number of “Fuji Firsts.”

Under Bodisch’s stewardship of Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, the Marines held their first-ever, fixed-wing close air support exercise with U.S. and Japanese jets at the East Fuji Maneuver Area.

They also held a new exercise, dubbed Shinka, with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, Camp Fuji spokeswoman Emily Gray told Stars and Stripes by email Tuesday.

Members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit come ashore at the Numazu Beach Training Area, Japan, during training with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, March 9, 2022.

Members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit come ashore at the Numazu Beach Training Area, Japan, during training with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, March 9, 2022. (Akifumi Ishikawa/Stars and Stripes)

Surrounded by his fellow Marines and representatives from the Japan Self-Defense Forces, Bodisch, who took over the training center in June 2020, thanked his colleagues and family for their support.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to work here at Camp Fuji,” he said during the ceremony, which was streamed live on Facebook.

Bodisch received the Legion of Merit for his accomplishments, which included developing closer ties with his Self-Defense Force counterparts and revitalizing the Numazu Beach Training Area, which was largely unused for more than 30 years.

Marines and Japanese troops began using the beach again last year for exercises with a stated goal of helping the United States and its allies prepare for an emergency or crisis in the region. The two are rebuilding their relationship as China asserts a claim of dominance in the Indo-Pacific region.

Bodisch’s successor, Col. Neil Owens, most recently served as the assistant chief of staff for government and external affairs at Marine Corps Installations Pacific. A native of Medford, Mass., he has a background in strategy and international affairs.

“I really share [Bodisch’s] philosophy,” Owens said during the ceremony. “I just want to let everyone know that I will continue on with the great work that’s been done here.”

Just a few miles from the base of Mount Fuji, the 309-acre area includes live-fire ranges, maneuver areas and a runway used for training by the U.S. military from throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

The Marines share the area with the nearby Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Camp Takigahara. Together, the two bases have a training area of approximately 36,000 acres.

Owens graduated from The George Washington University in 1994 with a bachelor’s in history and joined the Marine Corps in 1995. He earned a master’s in strategy from the University of New South Wales and another in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.

He also holds secondary specialties in northeast regional affairs and as a foreign security force adviser, according to his biography.

Over the years, he served with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and III Marine Expeditionary Force out of Okinawa, deployed to Afghanistan as an Afghan National Army Corps Advisor and served as the Chief of Staff for the Joint Operations Command – Iraq.

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Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.
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