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Keen Sword 19: Historic first JGSDF jump from USAF C-130Js in Japan

USAF C-130J Super Hercules

36th Airlift Squadron crewmembers fly over Kyushu, Japan, Nov. 4, 2018, during exercise Keen Sword 19. U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules' with the 36th AS became the first U.S. aircraft to drop Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers on Hiju-dai drop zone, Oita prefecture, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

Paratroopers on board

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldier assigned to the 1st Airborne Brigade, calls boarding to a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron at Japan Air Self-Defense Force Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, Nov. 4, 2018, during exercise Keen Sword 19. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules' with the 36 AS became the first U.S. aircraft to drop JGSDF soldiers on Hiju-dai drop zone, Oita prefecture, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

USAF C-130J Super Hercules

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers with the 1st Airborne Brigade prepare to board a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron at Japan Air Self-Defense Force Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, Nov. 4, 2018, during exercise Keen Sword 19. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules' with the 36 AS became the first U.S. aircraft to drop Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers on Hiju-dai drop zone, Oita prefecture, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

Paratroopers

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers assigned to the 1st Airborne Brigade confirm their delivery procedures over Hiju-dai drop zone, Oita prefecture, Japan, Nov. 4, 2018, during exercise Keen Sword 19. Approximately 280 JGSDF personnel conducted jump training from U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules' for the first time in Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- A 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules became the first U.S. aircraft to drop Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers on Hiju-dai drop zone, Oita prefecture, Japan, Nov. 4, during exercise Keen Sword 2019.

The JGSDF’s 1st Airborne Brigade soldiers, observed by U.S. Army Alaska Soldiers, jumped from the C-130J Super Hercules, showcasing the exercise’s capability to bring military power together to train.

“It is great that we are finally able to drop JGSDF paratroopers from U.S. aircraft in Japan,” said Capt. Jeffrey Larkin, 36th AS C-130J pilot and Keen Sword 19 C-130J mission commander. “Also, this is the first time that (the 36th AS) will fly over Hiju-dai drop zone. This is another exciting moment for us because we can fly in an atypical environment.”

Since 2015, the 36th AS and JGSDF’s 1st Airborne Brigade have been conducting joint jump training during Red-Flag Alaska. This historic first combined jump training in Japan will allow for more opportunities for future training and collaboration to strengthen bonds between the two nations.

“Working with the Japanese Airborne community increases bonds and friendships, and it also increases the understanding of the strategic value of both airborne communities,” said Army Master Sgt. Nathan Greer, U.S. Army Alaska jump master.

The jump highlighted the strong commitment of the U.S. and Japan to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, but the aircraft was just one moving piece in a large-scale area seizure scenario during Keen Sword 19.

“We delivered service members, between U.S. and Japan Self-Defense Forces, from Okinawa to Misawa,” said Larkin. “Also we conducted mass Container Delivery System drops at Hiju-dai (dropzone).”

The scenario: The 120 JGSDF paratroopers at the Japan Air Self-Defense Force Tsuiki Air Base at Fukuoka prefecture conducted airdrop training from the U.S. C-130J aircraft at Hiju-dai exercise areas, Oita prefecture, located approximately 810 km from Yokota Air Base.

“Everything was excellent.” said Greer. “As a jump master, they jumped safely and accurately. This is most important thing for jumpers, and they were professionals during the airborne operation.”

Keen Sword gives U.S. and Japanese forces an opportunity to practice critical air, maritime and amphibious capabilities essential for Japan’s defense and for regional security. The exercise is also the latest in a series of bilateral field training exercises that for more than 30 years have increased combat readiness and interoperability between the U.S. and JSDF.

“The scenario gave us the opportunity to practice tactical airlift to deliver supplies and personnel at a moment’s notice.” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Gates, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J loadmaster. “Any joint training provides greater awareness of how U.S. military and JSDF train to prepare for future contingencies and it help us stay ready to provide joint support when we are called upon.”

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