SASEBO, Japan (NNS) -- Rear Adm. John B. Nowell, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group SEVEN, hosted amphibious and mine warfare staff talks, May 23-24, with leaders from Japan Self-Defense Forces and various Navy and Marine Corps leaders in the 7th Fleet area of operations.
"This is the first blue-green staff talks that the U.S. has ever had with Japan," said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jonathan Brown, amphibious force Marine officer, ESG 7. "This is a relatively new initiative for them [JSDF]."
In 2013, the government of Japan announced a national security strategy that aimed to build up joint defense force capabilities that were sufficient for amphibious operations. While the shift toward amphibious warfare has been on Japan's radar since then, this was the first time that the Commander, Amphibious Task Force and Commander, Landing Force had formally joined together from both U.S. 7th Fleet and JSDF staffs. This marked the beginning of many major bilateral certifications, training exercises, and operations.
"There are an awful lot of details that get overlooked, like how do you command and control these forces? Who is in command? That's one of the biggest things we're talking about in these staff talks; the transfer of supporting versus supported," said Brown. "There are lots of decision points, execution checklists, and working out relationships between all the units that are supporting this amphibious transition. It's complex, with a lot of moving parts."
Not only did commands have the chance to learn about each other's missions and support capabilities, but it also served as an opportunity to build on relationships and alliances in the region.
"It's critical that we take opportunities to get the leadership from both U.S. and Japan to talk about how we will operate together in a whole range of operations, from humanitarian assistance and disaster response, like the aid we just provided after the earthquake in Kumamoto, to a more complex contingency response," said Nowell. "As we look at the Japanese developing their amphibious capability, as well as the U.S. and other regional partners leveraging their [JMSDF] expertise in mine warfare, we will continue to see our partnership grow."
Many Japanese counterparts said there were many advantages to meeting in person to plan and discuss future operations and exercises. It helped mitigate many miscommunication barriers while giving both CAT and CLF the chance to expound on ideas with each other.
"In order for us to operate successfully on amphibious missions, all forces must be included in the discussions," said Rear Adm. Hideki Yuasa, commander of JMSDF's Mine Warfare Force. "That is why we have to meet together for these talks. The Japanese forces are still in the early stages of amphibious operations, but hope to learn as much as possible in order to fight together and get on the same level as the U.S. Navy and Marines. The relationship between the U.S. Navy and JMSDF is already close, but we hope to strengthen it through these talks and operations. We want our relationship to include all forces, including the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, JASDF, JGSDF, and JMSDF."
These important staff talks also included tours of key ESG 7 platforms that highlight the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed amphibious capabilities.
U.S. Navy Cdr. Morris Oxendine, commanding officer, Naval Beach Unit SEVEN, gave Yuasa and company a tour of Yokose Landing Craft Air Cushion facilities to exhibit how Amphibious Forces 7TH Fleet transports Marines from ship to shore with their equipment and expertise.
JSDF leaders also had a chance to see the ships that Marines and NBU-7 Sailors embark on for a wide array of operations. Capt. Kristy McCallum, commanding officer, USS Green Bay (LPD 20), hosted them for a shipboard tour in order to give an idea of how the San Antonio-class dock landing ship operates in the 7TH Fleet area of operations.
Commands in attendance included key role players in amphibious forces in the Pacific, such as 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Amphibious Squadron 11, NBU-7, Mine Counter Measures Squadron 7, Japan's Western Army, Japan's Western Air Defense Force, and Japan's Mine Warfare Force.
ESG-7 is the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force and is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.
For more news from Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/ctf76/.