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US Forces Practice Disaster Relief with Allies Japan and Australia

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by Patrick Madaj
US Marines contributed a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter and several personnel during a combined disaster relief exercise with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force on Okinawa. Image: Lance Cpl. Daniel Jean-Paul, United States Marine Corps.

US military personnel collaborated with Australian and Japanese forces in July during two events focused on bolstering logistical capabilities and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) effectiveness in the Asia-Pacific region.

Alaska’s state forces got the chance to lend technical advice to Australian personnel after participating in the Talisman Saber exercise, which ran for 20 days in mid-July and included troops from Japan and New Zealand for the first time in the history of the simulation. With their unique insight into deployment logistics, the Alaska National Guard’s 10th Support Group (Regional), which provided logistical support during Talisman Saber, met with Australian service members at Camp Rocky in Rockhampton, Australia, to swap ideas on logistical management techniques and to contribute material for a logistical handbook that will be issued by the Australian Defense Force in the near future.

Currently, Alaska is the site of another military training exercise where elements of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force are cooperating with US forces in logistics and other areas as part of the ongoing Red Flag – Alaska 15-3 exercise, hosted by the state’s Eielson and Elmendorf Air Force Bases until August 21st.

The US further engaged with its ally Japan on July 23rd at Camp Naha on Okinawa.  US Marines of Marine Corps Installations Pacific (MCIPAC) and Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 participated in the Churashima Rescue Exercise with members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. American and Japanese forces worked in close cooperation with prefectural disaster response groups in an exercise simulating the effects of an earthquake. The Marine Corps contributed a heavy helicopter and its crew, which transported role-player casualties from a staged disaster zone to Camp Naha for simulated medical care.

Combined HA/DR exercises are a common practice between American and Japanese forces, but last month’s iteration was the first time US Marines had been invited by their Japanese counterparts to participate in the Churashima simulation. Officers overseeing the simulation noted the boost in capability that US personnel and equipment brought to the exercise and lauded the occasion as a good mechanism for identifying areas of improvement.

Patrick Madaj is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an undergraduate student at the University of Oklahoma.