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Western Army, Marines focus on communications

26 Sep 2013 | Cpl. Mark Stroud

CAMP COURTNEY, Japan - Members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Western Army Signal Group joined Marines with G-6, communications, III Marine Expeditionary Force, for Japan/U.S. Signal Talks Sept. 18-19 at Camp Courtney and Sept. 20 at Camp Shields.

The second-annual bilateral communications forum focused on promoting a shared understanding of how each organization provides communications and command-and-control capabilities to their forces.

“We have continued (the talks for a second year) because it is the perfect forum to allow interaction to happen,” said U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Rufino H. Gomez, the chief of staff, G-6, communications, 3rd Marine Division. “From my perspective, it has been extremely successful just allowing the staffs to come together and ask those questions that can minimize the friction and the fog of not understanding what the other country brings and the capabilities they have.”

The WASG and III MEF G-6 expect the increased mutual understanding and strengthened relationship to pay dividends in future bilateral operations.

“Operations can only exist through communication’s ability to enable operations, so I think that our talks bring us to a common ground on how both of our countries do communications,” said U.S. Marine Col. Brian S. Pagel, the assistant chief of staff, G-6, communications, III MEF. “(This) is critical to making operations work in the future.”

The JGSDF members and Marines began the communications discussion at Tengan Castle, discussing a wide range of issues from technical specifications of each service’s equipment, to communications doctrine and the regional challenges of operating across a widely-dispersed chain of islands, according to Master Gunnery Sgt. Arthur Allen III, communications chief, G-6, communications, III MEF.

“I think anytime two partner nations can get together and talk down to the tactical level and understand how each country approaches the different military problems we have, the better off we are,” said Pagel.

The participants paid specific attention to discussing the challenges associated with maintaining communications across a force during modern amphibious operations.

“Communications is always a challenge, but especially so in amphibious operations,” said Pagel. “On the modern battlefield, the ranges and some of the challenges that naval forces have makes it even more difficult because the ship-to-shore ranges have been extended over the years.”

The JGSDF members and Marines attended an Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Okinawa conference during the final day of the talks.

AFCEA is a non-profit organization founded to promote the exchange of information and strengthening of relationships among the military, government and academia in the fields of communications, electronics, computer sciences, intelligence systems and command-and-control systems.

The JGSDF plans to host next year’s talks in mainland Japan, continuing the process of strengthening the partnership between the two nations.

“Shared understanding and lasting relationships are critical to both of our organizations’ success in conducting operations,” said JGSDF Col. Yoshio Hamasaki, the commanding officer of the WASG. “To enhance the interoperability between Japan and the U.S. is immensely important, and the WASG faces many challenges in the field of communications. III MEF has learned many lessons during various experiences and operations, so in that sense I think that this conference will be very fruitful for us.”

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