The United States and Japan concluded the latest iteration of a bilateral exercise last week. Exercise Forest Light Western Army wrapped up on January 30 after a closing ceremony, a U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) statement released by the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) said.
The exercise had brought together 145 U.S. Marines based in Okinawa, including a division of four MV-22B Ospreys with the 31st MEU, alongside approximately 500 members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF). The exercise went on between January 18 and 30 across several locations on the Japanese island of Kyushu in southwestern Japan.
The locations for the exercise included “Camp Oyanohara and Camp Takayubaru in Kumamoto Prefecture, and the Kirishima Training Area in Kagoshima Prefecture,” according to the 31st MEU.
“The exercise consisted of field training events encompassing basic infantry skills, integrated vertical assaults with MV-22 Osprey aircraft, and combined-arms operations with both allied nations’ forces completing a variety of missions together. U.S. Marines with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st MEU, worked alongside their JGSDF counterparts with the 12th Infantry Regiment, 8th Division, Western Army,” the 31st MEU said.
Exercise Forest Light Western Army follows up on Exercise Forest Light Middle Army, which took place between December 1 and 13, 2019. According to a Japan Ministry of Defense statement, that exercise “strengthened ties between the JGSDF and USMC, and enhanced interoperability under respective chains of commands by practicing procedures necessary for bilateral operations.”
Exercise Forest Light Middle Army took place at the Aibano Training Area in Japan’s Shiga Prefecture. Like the latest iteration of the exercise, Exercise Forest Light Middle Army involved MV-22B Ospreys. According to a U.S. Marine Corps statement, that exercise focused on “helicopter-borne operations, with a comprehensive final training event that will begin with an aerial insert from MV-22B Ospreys, and consist of multiple days of complex bilateral movements against an opposing force.”
The conclusion of Exercise Forest Light Western Army comes shortly after the two countries began the latest iteration of Northern Viper, an exercise that brings together the U.S. Marine Corps and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force for bilateral training activities at the Hokudaien and Yausubetsu Training Areas on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido.
That exercise is ongoing and will involve a combined arms exercise and a live-fire drill featuring both ground and airborne units from both sides, as The Diplomat discussed last week.
The United States and Japan have been military allies since 1960, when they concluded a security treaty. Japan hosts approximately 50,000 U.S. troops, constituting a significant forward deployment point for the U.S. military in the Asia-Pacific.