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1st Marine Division

Camp Pendleton, CA
Japanese forces train with 1st Recon to enhance amphibious capabilities

By Lance Cpl. Angel Serna | 1st Marine Division | February 2, 2015

The cold and gloomy morning starts with troops fighting against the waves of a surf line and feeling a rush of the cold ocean water drenching their bodies as they strategically ride in Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts along the coast of southern California.

Marines with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, taught basic maneuver techniques for the Combat Rubber Raiding Craft [CRRC] to members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force aboard Camp Pendleton on Jan. 28, 2015 during Exercise Iron Fist 2015.

Exercise Iron Fist 15 is an annual bilateral training exercise between U.S. and Japanese military forces that builds their combined ability to conduct amphibious and land-based contingency operations. IF15, currently in its tenth iteration, is scheduled from Jan. 26 to Feb. 27, 2015 in southern California.

The JGSDF intends to stand up an amphibious brigade within the next few years. The brigade will be part of the Western Army Infantry Regiment, a battalion-sized marine infantry unit in Japan. For the past decade, the regiment has served as Japan’s test bed for amphibious warfare, and has participated in joint exercises with United States forces.
The Marine Corps is the lead for amphibious operations in the U.S. military. With the ability to maneuver combat-ready forces from the sea to the shore and inland in order to achieve a positional advantage over the enemy or to simply provide humanitarian support, they can help develop and fine tune the JGSDF’s understanding of amphibious operations. 

“This is our bread and butter. It’s what we do,” stated GySgt. Daniel Young, a platoon sergeant with 1st Recon. “The [JGSDF] are our partners and we want to strengthen their abilities in amphibious operations. When we do, they could successfully operate with us and be able to apply this training in their self-defense force.”

While training on the CRRCs, soldiers with JGSDF learned how to go on and off Landing Craft Air Cushions and how to use them as a median between the larger ships at sea and the coastline of an objective.

“Something we’re trying to teach the [JGSDF] that we haven’t shown them in the past is how to use an [LCAC] as a connector ship,” said Capt. Trevor Miller, platoon commander with 1st Recon. “This is something that would go from the landing platform dock or the landing helicopter dock to about 20 nautical miles off the coastline and we take the CRRCs from that point to do insertions and amphibious operations. The [JGSDF] has never worked with LCACs so we’re teaching them the procedures and benefits to using one.”

Along with LCACs, the Southern California coastline also provides a unique amphibious training opportunity, not existent in Japan, for the JGSDF to help enhance their maneuvering techniques in a CRRC to get out of the surf line in a safer and more efficient manner

“The [JGSDF] wanted to focus more on the surf passages because it gave them a little bit of difficulty that they’re not used to,” said Young. “If that’s something they want to focus on in order to meet their requirements, we have time to adjust and meet their needs.”

The key to passing safely through the surf line is to not speed over the waves, but to absorb them just enough to break over each wave and not ramp off them, said Young.

Though these are the early portions of this exercise, it has shown in the past that the Marines were able to help the Japanese forces refine their skills and provide them with a facility where they can train and offer them a safety structure. 

Iron Fist 15 mutually enhances the amphibious capabilities of U.S. Marines and Japanese forces and it reinsures that the U.S. and Japan are and will remain enduring allies.