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US, Japan participate in Keen Edge 16

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- Members from the Japan Self-Defense Forces and United States Forces Japan came together to conduct a joint-bilateral command post exercise Keen Edge 16 at Yokota Air Base, Japan, from Jan. 23-29; this was the 14th command post exercise since 1986.

Keen Edge 16's purpose was to facilitate the interactions and to improve interoperability between U.S. military and JSDF personnel during real-world contingencies. The training also ensured that all subsequent exercises will be executed smoothly, allowing meaningful interaction between the participating units and improving the overall combat readiness of the U.S. and JSDF forces.

"This exercise is very important because it brings the U.S. military and JSDF together to train for potential crises," said Col. Houston Cantwell, the USFJ director of operations. "The training tests both nations ability to work together in a controlled environment giving both sides a better understanding of their combined capabilities."

The training focused on bilateral coordination, force protection, host nation support, ballistic missile defense and non-combatant evacuation operations.

It has historically been part of an annual exercise series that alternates between field training exercises (Keen Sword) and command post exercises. During KE16, various Japanese and U.S. headquarter staff employed computer simulations to practice and refine the steps they would take in the event of a crisis or contingency.

"We have to smooth U.S. and Japan bilateral operations to better defend Japan and work together in concert during various emergencies," said Capt. Satoru Onishi, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force 3rd Operations Division operations department director. "This training will be useful for us to successfully work together if we face these challenges in future contingencies."

Command post exercises are a cost-effective way of providing military participants with realistic and unobtrusive training by simulating a crisis.

Participants used a computer-based system, called the Joint Theater Level Simulation system, to direct and respond to exercise events. This system provided a realistic, though simulated, environment from which commanders and staff improved their skills by anticipating and reacting in real-time to the events generated by the simulation.

Exercises such as Keen Edge provide an indispensable command post training environment for enhancing mutual understanding of each country's tactics, communication protocols, procedures and general interoperability.

"We are excited to be part of this exercise with Japan, because we depend on the Japanese for bilateral and host nation support," Cantwell said. "I hope that this will continue to help us form better relationships between both countries as we demonstrate that we are both committed to this alliance."

The U.S. military frequently trains in joint and bilateral environments to enhance operations proficiency, contingency response, and help ensure peace and security throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.