By 1st Lt. Stephanie Murphy
The Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the soldiers of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force executed a bilateral raid at Kin Blue Beach and in the Central Training Area (CTA), Okinawa, Japan, Feb. 1, 2021.
The training kicked off as U.S. Marines from the 31st MEU’s Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 3/4 conducted a small boat raid to secure the beach, launching on combat rubber raiding craft from the well deck of USS Ashland (LSD 48). Once the beach was secured, JGSDF soldiers landed in a CH-47 with 109th Aviation Unit, Western Army Aviation Group, to coordinate follow-on actions.
During the next phase of training, U.S. Marines and JGSDF soldiers flew in to Landing Zone Dodo in the CTA, with Marines from BLT 3/4 providing security to the south as JGSDF pushed north to clear a town.
In addition to the training at Kin Blue, JGSDF also conducted deck landing qualifications with a CH-47 from 1st Helicopter Brigade aboard amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), increasing interoperability between air, ground and sea assets.
JGSDF soldiers were present aboard LHA 6 for several weeks leading up to the event in order to provide liaison between American and Japanese forces. 1st Lt. Kazushige Mori, a pilot officer with 105th Aviation Unit, worked with air officers in the tower aboard LHA 6 to provide aviation control during the deck landing qualifications.
All 31st MEU and JGSDF liaison personnel tested negative for COVID-19 prior to embarking on ships, and anyone participating in the training ashore was required to maintain 20 feet of distance between units out of an abundance of caution. Mask regulations were also strictly enforced in order to prevent the spread of the virus, and the overall event was scaled down due to COVID-19 considerations.
The 31st MEU routinely conducts bilateral training in order to increase interoperability with regional partners, and views the JGSDF as an important ally as we ‘partner to compete, and compete to deter’ in the Indo-Pacific region.