Rising Thunder Promotes U.S.-Japan Partnership, Capability
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2013 The first combined aviation live-fire exercise with U.S. and Japanese army forces firing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles proved to be a highlight of the ongoing Rising Thunder 13 exercise underway at Yakima Training Center, Wash.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, right, commander of the 7th Infantry Division, meets Japanese Maj. Gen. Takeyoshi Omari, deputy commander of 4th Division, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, during Rising Thunder at the Yakima Training Center, Wash., Sept. 13, 2013. Rising Thunder is a U.S. Army-hosted exercise designed to build interoperability between 1st Corps, the 7th Infantry Division and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. U.S. Army photo by 1st Sgt. Jason Shepherd
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
About 800 soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 1st Corps and almost 500 members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force are participating in the annual exercise, Army Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, the 7th Infantry Division commander, told American Forces Press Service.
The three-week exercise, now in its 20th year, is fundamental to strengthening the longstanding bond between the U.S. and Japanese armies, Lanza said. That bond, and the U.S.-Japanese alliance, is a cornerstone of the rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region, he added.
Activities conducted since the Sept. 4 opening ceremonies have focused on tactical skills such as target detection, reconnaissance techniques and cover and concealment. The exercise also includes platoon and company-level live-fire exercises, indirect live fire scenarios, demolition activities involving engineers and urban operations in one of the training area’s mock villages, Lanza said.
Last week, the U.S. 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and Japan’s 3rd Anti-Tank Helicopter Battalion conducted the aviation live-fire to test the interoperability of the newly fielded U.S. AH-64E Apache helicopters with Japan’s AH-64D models during Hellfire operations.
“That was a tremendous achievement, because you had Japanese aircraft and U.S. aircraft operating in the same airspace, taking the same commands from the tower, working air-space deconfliction, air space management, fires control and gunnery,” Lanza said. “The interoperability was tremendous.”
Both the United States and Japan dedicated more resources and manpower to this year’s Rising Thunder, he noted.
The Japanese defense force has “raised considerably the amount of capability they have brought out,” he said. Japanese Maj. Gen. Takeyoshi Omari, deputy commander of 4th Division, deployed to the state of Washington for the exercise with an infantry regiment, artillery unit, engineers and aviation section.
“We have done the same thing,” Lanza said, committing the entire 520th Infantry Stryker Battalion, an element of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, as well as some of the brigade’s enablers.
The scope of the exercise has expanded as well.
“Last year was more about cooperation and partnership,” Lanza said. “This year we have expanded it beyond cooperation and partnership to really being interoperable in a combined-arms maneuver scenario with our allies.”
As U.S. and Japanese soldiers train, eat and bunk together, Lanza said, they are growing in cultural awareness and understanding. They share friendly games of baseball and paused together Sept. 11 to pay tribute to those lost in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania during the terrorist attacks in 2001.
Lanza said he’s been struck during Rising Thunder 2013 by the commonalities between the allied soldiers.
“When you look at the two forces in terms of interoperability, there are some amazing similarities in the professionalism of the forces,” he said. “There is a lot of similarity between our organizations and in how we operate, how we train and how we fight. So it is very refreshing to operate so closely with an allied force that we are so close with and that we have such great ties with to conduct this operation.”