by: Capt. George McArthur
31st MEU Communication Strategy and Operations
KUMAMOTO, Japan – More than 145 Okinawa-based U.S. Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit will join around 500 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force service members, for bilateral training exercise Forest Light Western Army Jan. 18 – 31, 2020, in Kyushu, Japan.
The exercise will consist of field training events to include basic infantry skills training, vertical assaults integrated with MV-22B Osprey flight operations, and combined-arms operations. U.S. Marines from Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st MEU, will join their JGSDF counterparts from the 12th Infantry Regiment, 8th Division, Western Army, during the exercise.
Bilateral training is essential to ensuring that our forces are prepared to work and fight together should the need arise. Exercise Forest Light Western Army and similar training like it serves as a testament to the proven partnership the U.S. Marine Corps and JGSDF have during real-world contingencies such as after the Kumamoto earthquakes in April 2016.
Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), with the 31st MEU, flew MV-22 Ospreys from Okinawa to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, and provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief with the Japan Self-Defense Force as part of Joint Task Force Chinzei. This example emphasizes the importance of interoperability shared in the course of bilateral training exercises such as Forest Light Western Army.
The Forest Light series of exercises enhance the collective defense capabilities of the U.S.-Japanese alliance in a dynamic and challenging environment through a variety of bilateral training activities.