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Disaster drill prepares Japan, US forces

20 Sep 2012 | Lance Cpl. Matthew Manning

Members of the Japan Self-Defense Force, Shizuoka prefecture, U.S. Marine Corps and Army took part in the Shizuoka disaster drill at the Shizuoka airport Sept. 2.

Annually since 1960, Japan has marked Sept. 1 as Disaster Prevention Day in memory of the extremely destructive 1923 Tokyo earthquake. Since 1980, Shizuoka prefecture has conducted an annual exercise to prepare for a large earthquake.

"The scenario for this year's exercise is that Shizuoka was hit by a (large) earthquake, and the 12th Brigade was asked to provide rescue and relief in the western region of Shizuoka," said Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Maj. Yoshiji Aoyama, G-3, planning and operations officer, 12th Brigade. "We set up a command and control post at the Shizuoka airport to facilitate the rescue efforts."

The post at the Shizuoka airport also served as a logistics hub for the exercise, according to Aoyama.

"The airport provides us with a central location in the prefecture where we can load aircraft with food, water and relief supplies and distribute the supplies to areas in need," said Aoyama. "We will also be able to fly injured people into the airport and transport them to a nearby hospital, which the JSDF will be supporting with equipment and personnel in a time of crisis."

Overseeing this year's drill were Kohei Masuda, the vice minister of defense, Heita Kawakatsu, the governor of Shizuoka prefecture, and Gen. Eiji Kimizuka, chief of staff of the JGSDF.

"The hardest thing in trying to plan for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations is that, whether it is an earthquake or a flood, situations we are not prepared for will arise," said Maj. Eric J. Mattson, a civil affairs officer with III Marine Expeditionary Force. "This is why it is important to have leadership present for both exercises and the real-world application."

Marines from Camp Fuji provided vehicles and personnel to assist in the exercise.

"As Marines, we are always ready to do humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations when asked by Japan," said Maj. Michael S. Johnson, executive officer for the Combined Arms Training Center, Camp Fuji. "We are partners and during Operation Tomadachi, we were able to execute when our friends needed us."

A lot of hard work went into the exercise, but continual training will make a difference if a disaster strikes, according to Johnson.

"The exercise showed we are prepared, but there is always more we can do to increase our level of preparation," said Aoyama. "I look forward to future exercises like this where we are able to work with U.S. forces."

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