MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, conducted Exercise Keen Sword 15 aboard the installation from Nov. 17 – 19, 2014.
Exercise Keen Sword 15 is a bilateral base security operations and field training exercise. It also involves local bilateral and protect drills with the 13th Brigade of the Japan Ground Self Defense-Force.
Similar to the annual force protection exercise, Active Shield, this routine evolution is designed to strengthen the relationship and interoperability between the Marines and their JGSDF counterparts. It is also designed to validate better bilateral communication and coordination in force protection-related situations.
“The focus was for Marines and JGSDF to coordinate with each other and appropriately respond to given guard and protect scenarios,” said Maj. Robert Carlson, MCAS Iwakuni Airfield Operations Officer. “The exercise also served to identify the extent that the language barrier would impact performance. Despite communication limitations, it was identified that both parties operated well with each other and all objectives were achieved.”
In addition to BSO, Carlson said the MCAS Iwakuni staff tested their readiness in response to numerous emergency management scenarios.
“The biggest challenge was the language barrier, but in most cases, Marines and their JGSDF counterparts found ways to communicate effectively enough to handle each scenario appropriately,” said Carlson.
Marines remained vigilant as it was a significant challenge for station personnel to conduct an exercise while simultaneously providing all the daily services provided to tenant and transient units.
“We were stretched thin, yet still highly effective, it was a great opportunity to let younger Marines take charge and work through the scenarios,” said Carlson. “Hallmark of the Marines: Do more with less.”
According to Carlson, full Scale exercises like Keen Sword provide opportunities for Marines to respond to scenarios to the fullest extent; from initial response, follow-on actions, reporting and recovery. KS15 provided more robust training opportunities as compared to table top exercises and command post exercises.
Capt. Jacob Hoskins, the Provost Marshal of the station Provost Marshal’s Office, said bilateral coordination is challenging, specifically due to the language barrier. It is important that Marines and JGSDF train together so that they are both better prepared, should an actual incident require cooperation.
“Every exercise scenario was developed to respond to possible real world scenarios,” said Hoskins. “Marine and JGSDF personnel responded as if each scenario was real and they were committed to learning from one another during this training opportunity.”
Hoskins said this training improved the operational readiness of the units aboard station. Departments responded to a wide range of realistic scenarios that could occur any day.
“Each objective was accomplished and areas of improvement were identified, which will improve readiness,” said Hoskins. “The relationships and confidence established between Marine and JGSDF personnel has improved our ability to execute base security operations.”
Carlson said focusing on the BSO portion of the exercise with JGSDF will significantly increase the training value. Expanding the number of training days will provide the opportunity for more detailed and complex scenarios.
“The cooperation and professionalism exhibited by our Marines and JGSDF has provided an excellent foundation from which to expand upon next year,” said Carlson. “Continuous training and relationship building such as this illustrates our mutual commitment to the defense of Japan, which ensures the future security and stability of both nations.”