Marines School Japanese Soldiers in Amphibious Warfare
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
NAVAL AMPHIBIOUS BASE CORONADO, Calif., Jan. 18, 2006 Boating around San Diego Bay may sound relaxing, but members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force training with U.S. Marines here have found it to be just the opposite.
U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Travis Wease, an instructor with Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific, drives a group of Japanese soldiers from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's Western Army Infantry Regiment around San Diego Bay in a rigid-hull inflatable boat. Driving small boats like this one is just one skill the Japanese are learning during their three-week amphibious operations training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Roughly 200 Japanese forces have been training here since Jan. 9.
Training with experts in amphibious operations here is not a cakewalk, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Demuro, an instructor with the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific, said.
"It may look really cool and fun, kind of 'Baywatch' type stuff. But if you were to come out here at 2 o'clock in the morning when we're over here coming through the surf and they're soaking wet and they've been up for 15, 16 hours and they're shivering and miserable, it's not so 'Baywatch' anymore," Demuro said.
Experts from the warfare training group are presenting the members of Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force Western Army Infantry Regiment with an overview of what goes on during amphibious training at Coronado.
"Being that they really don't have any experience with this type of training, they come here to us, ... the duty experts, to make sure they're learning the right things," Lt. Col. Peter Owen, director of Marine training for the Warfare Training Group, said. "We have a set curriculum. It's a very regimented curriculum, so it's an easier environment for them to work in."
The Japanese troops are learning just the essentials, including basic water navigation, driving small boats, and swimming in the ocean wearing fins and wetsuits, Demuro said.
"When they leave here, they'll be familiar with the challenges associated with moving a rifle company ashore in rubber boats at night," Owen said.
The three-week training course will conclude with an "infiltration" of the beach at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The soldiers will find the Coronado instructors scrutinizing their ship-to-shore movements, while Japanese officers will evaluate their tactical skills ashore, Owen said.
In addition to the operational skills they will learn, the long days and tough training also help build a strong appreciation for teamwork, Demuro said.
"(The training) gets a little miserable sometimes, and when you suffer together, the unit starts to bond together," he said. "I think ... the big 'take-away' for them is the teamwork and the unit cohesion."
Demuro said it's significant that U.S. forces are now training a former enemy.
"I think it's a testament to everyone in the world that anybody can get along with each other," he said. "If you look at our relationship with Iraq, 20 or 30 years down the road, maybe we'll be here training Iraq how to drive boats."
Bilateral training isn't unusual for the Marines, Demuro said. They frequently train with Japanese forces in Japan in addition to training with other countries' troops.
The Japanese are pleased with the way the training is progressing, Japanese Col. Yoji Yamanaka, the regiment's commander, said. He went on to praise the instructors, calling the training a good environment to increase Japan's amphibious operations ability.
The training is scheduled to end Jan. 27.