USS NEW ORLEANS, At sea (NNS) -- Over 500 Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF)soldiers and U.S. Marines embarked on USS New Orleans (LPD 18) for Iron Fist, a yearly joint training exercise, Feb. 12 - 16.
Since 2006, Japanese soldiers have traveled to the U.S. to train alongside their coalition partners in amphibious operations as part of Iron Fist. Despite the language barrier, the Sailors and Marines on New Orleans worked very well together with the JGSDF soldiers, according to Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate (SW) Scott Wasserman, deck department leading chief petty officer and well deck control officer.
While initial expected awkwardness occurred during the first day, soon the JGSDF soldiers and U.S. service members were snapping pictures of each other and asking cultural questions through broken combinations of English and Japanese.
The Japanese have been training with the Navy and Marine Corps Team since 2006 because of their extensive knowledge and long history of beach landings, which are among the U.S. military's more challenging maneuvers.
During the five-day exercise, New Orleans launched over 25 vehicles numerous times from its well deck.
Despite the complicated and long schedule, the ship's launch and recovery efforts went smoothly.
"We make up a cohesive team and we were able to complete each launch and recovery without incident," said Wasserman. "Safety of personnel is always a big concern of mine and everyone did an outstanding job of ensuring that all safety precautions were followed.
"We safely executed the mission and did it on time each and every time. That's why we are the "Big Easy": We make it look easy."
The exercise also helped the New Orleans' crew learn to work with other nations' armed forces, a crucial skill for future operations. These lessons learned with the Japanese will be put to use in exercises with the U.S.'s South American partners in the ship's near future.
USS New Orleans (LPD 18) is a San Antonio-class ship designed and built to fight. Its warfighting capabilities include a state-of-the-art command and control suite, substantial vehicle lift capacity, a large flight deck, and advanced ship survivability features that enhance its ability to operate in the unforgiving littoral environment. New Orleans provides each naval expeditionary force with greatly enhanced operational flexibility.
For more news from USS New Orleans, visit www.navy.mil/local/lpd18/.