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Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers set up an antenna for the tactical operations center at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Feb. 15, 2019. Communication between the TOC and forward ground elements was essential for successful coordination of forces throughout the exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew R. Bray)

Photo by Pfc. Andrew R Bray

U.S. Marines, Soldiers and Japanese forces train, live together at the National Training Center in California

22 Feb 2019 | Pfc. Andrew R Bray III Marine Expeditionary Force

U.S. Marines with 1st Brigade, 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group worked with the U.S. Army 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force 72nd Tank Regiment at the National Training Center, Rotation 19-04 at Fort Irwin, California Feb. 9-22.

The exercises focused on improving fighting capabilities against a conventional force by a force-on-force section and a live fire section.

The force-on-force portion consisted of an opposing force made up of U.S. Army soldiers stationed at Fort Irwin who were to fight the JGSDF 72nd Tank Regiment and 1st Stryker Brigade with 1st Brigade, 5th ANGLICO providing fire support coordination.

About two weeks prior to the actual field exercise, ANGLICO traveled to Fort Irwin from Okinawa and prepared. The Marines readied gear, planned, and practiced the skills they would be needing for the exercise. They were shown the equipment the friendly Japanese forces used and the equipment that the opposing force was using as well.

On Feb. 8, the Marines headed to the field to begin the force-on-force portion of the exercise. They split up into several different groups with different roles to fill.

Three firepower control teams worked towards the front of the conflict. FCT 1 spent the majority of the exercise at two observation points, gathering and communicating target information to friendly forces. FCT 2 worked with the JGSDF tanks and FCT 3 worked with the Army Strykers. FCT 2 and 3 worked at the front, observing and informing their armor units of potential targets and threats.

The remaining Marines, the supporting arms liaison team and brigade, were at the rear. They played a supporting role providing information and communication abilities to the forward elements. During this time, multiple integrated laser engagement systems were used to determine the elimination of assets on the both sides.

On Feb. 17, the force-on-force section of the exercise was concluded and the live fire began. The live fire allowed artillery and mortar crews to practice with live rounds to eliminate plywood targets.

During this time ANGLICO provided support for Japanese 120mm mortars and Army 155mm Howitzers. ANGLICO Marines informed the Japanese and Army where their rounds were impacting. The live fire portion of the exercise lasted until Feb. 22, when NTC Rotation 19-04 was concluded.

Cpl. Kevin Hackman, a fire support Marine with 1st Brigade, 5th ANGLICO, III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, said that coordinating and training with different nations is particularly important to the Marine Corps because it is an expeditionary force. The Marine Corps needs to be ready to fight anywhere in the world, and having those relationships built and having the familiarity with working with foreign nations is important to operating effectively overseas.