Military News

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

AMC Airmen participate in 16th Annual Operation Toy Drop

by Marvin Krause
43rd Airflift Group Public Affairs


12/9/2013 - POPE ARMY AIRFIELD, FORT BRAGG, N.C.  -- Air Mobility Command and German Air Force transport aircraft and Airmen participated in the 16th annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop here Dec. 6 through Dec. 7.

Seven C-130H Hercules aircraft and Airmen from the 43rd Airlift Group and 440th Airlift Wing, Pope Army Airfield, 910th Airlift Wing, Youngstown, Ohio, 145th Airlift Wing, Charlotte, N.C., and two German Air Force Transall C-160 aircraft, ensured the successful outload and airdrop of 1,570 U.S. Army paratroopers and foreign jumpmasters participating in this year's operation hosted by the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.

Assisting USACAPOC(A) personnel were more than 100 military, civilian, allied jumpmasters and volunteers from other installation commands such as the 18th Airborne Corps, 43rd Airlift Group and 440th Airlift Wing. This underscores the service's belief Soldiers and Airmen - the people who collectively come together as a team for great causes like training and charity - are an organization's best asset.

The Air Force mission commander for this year's Operation Toy Drop is Capt. Marnie Dabroski, 440th Airlift WingC-130H navigator. She is participating in her third Operation Toy Drop.

"The Army lets me know how many people they want dropped and when they want them dropped, and I make all of the Air Force assets move in a way that allows for that to happen," said Dabroski.

"Not only does this event make you feel great because you are participating in an event that helps underprivileged children, but at the same time, as far as I'm concerned with my duties this year, this is the top of the spear as far as my career has been concerned with mission planning," she said.

Similar in support for a Joint Operational Access Exercise and Joint Airborne/Air Transportability Training operations here, the airdrop planning and execution for this year's Operation Toy Drop was a little more complicated. Joint Airborne/Air Transportability Training airlift missions provide continuation and proficiency training to airlift aircrews, support personnel, and service customers. The Tanker/Airlift Control Center or Air Mobility Operations Control Center coordinates with users to provide airland, airdrop, aircraft load and service school support.

"This event is very similar to a JOAX itself depending on the size of the exercise. Normally, we operate with roughly two to three aircraft at a time in one formation so, that makes deconfliction of aircraft fairly easy. Here, we're looking at multiple aircraft formations as well as single ships. Our initial planned time on target is going to have a mass over the drop zone of five C-130s in a formation, then two single C-160s, 15-minutes in trail of each other as well as us. After that, we're looking at two, two-ships and a three-ship plus the two C-160s, operating individually and trying to deconflict take-off and land times as well as range times and drop zone times, it gets a little hectic," she said.

The C-130s will perform four airdrops of paratroopers and the C-160s will do three airdrops during the operation.

Each year since, the chance to perform a "Hollywood" jump supervised by foreign jumpmasters has drawn thousands of Soldiers to participate in Operation Toy Drop. Jumpmasters from eight allied nations supervised airborne operations during the main jump day on Saturday, Dec. 7, and over the following week with Army special-operations units.

Over its 16-year span, Operation Toy Drop has collected and distributed thousands of toys for children in the Sandhills, N.C. area.

Operation Toy Drop will collect and distribute more than 5,000 toys donated by Fort Bragg soldiers through Christmas to needy children who live on or near Fort Bragg, N.C. In exchange for a donated toy, paratroopers were provided a jump lottery number and an opportunity to earn their foreign jump wings if their number was selected.

Foreign jumpmasters from Germany, Sweden, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Brazil, Chile, Poland and Latvia participated in this year's event.

"This is a good joint event and a good way to meet other people in the Air Force and a good way to work with the Army and on top of it, you just get good satisfaction about the overall intent of the event getting the toys for needy kids, it's great," said Capt. Mark Pitliangas, 440th Airlift Wing C-130H pilot. "It's special to be a part of something that people volunteer to be a part of. To get to see all the people out at the drop zone watching the jumpers and the reactions the jumpers get jumping with the foreign jumpmasters, it's a really cool experience," he said. "This event is similar to a normal Joint Airborne Training mission but it's a lot more complex, a lot more high-viz and probably a lot more importance as far as the impact it goes above just our normal training with the impact of reaching out to the children," he said.

"We've always come to do Joint Airborne Training here, so it's good training for all of us to come out and do the personnel drops. It's good experience with the other units, especially in the larger formations," said Lt. Col. Perry Sorg, 910th Airlift Wing C-130H navigator. "This is a fantastic thing they do for the kids. You don't always get an opportunity to have a chance where the kids get to enjoy what goes on in the military, especially when we can put together some training like this for their benefit as well," he said.

Within the Airborne community, foreign jump wings is a status symbol to have had an experience with an allied or coalition airborne force, and even more so is the recognition of being able to wear on a paratrooper's dress uniform that country's airborne wings or parachutist badge.

Masterminded in 1998 by then-Staff Sgt. Randy Oler, a Civil Affairs Soldier, Operation Toy Drop started as a relatively minor success. After months of planning, the first Operation Toy Drop was small and just 550 toys were raised -- but it was a start.

In 2012, Toy Drop collected and distributed nearly 10,000 toys. Since 1998, the operation has collected and donated more than 76,000 toys. Each toy collected is donated to a child in need - almost 19,000 children received toys in 2012 through Operation Toy Drop.

On April 20, 2004, Sgt. 1st Class Randall R. Oler suffered a fatal heart attack while performing jumpmaster duties. The void left by his death was a difficult one to fill; Oler had run the operation from memory for six years. With the support of every unit on Fort Bragg, Operation Toy Drop has continued on and, in 2012, Operation Toy Drop raised more than 10,000 toys -- from bikes to dolls to video game systems -- for families and children in need throughout the region.

Texas National Guard Responds to Winter Storm


By Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson
Texas Military Forces

DENISON, Texas, Dec. 10, 2013 – Citizen-soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard’s 176th Engineer Brigade provided support to state and local officials during Winter Storm Cleon, as named by the National Weather Service, in north Texas Dec. 5-9.

At the request of Gov. Rick Perry, about 50 members of the Grand Prairie-based brigade suited up in cold-weather gear and headed out in Humvees and Light Medium Tactical Vehicles to help preposition state assets as the storm approached. Soldiers were stationed along the major highways here, as well as in Wichita Falls.

Preliminary reports from the Texas Military Forces Joint Operations Center indicate the deployed soldiers aided more than 120 stranded vehicles, conducted more than 225 welfare checks and assisted with the setup of a Red Cross shelter in Valley View, near Wichita Falls.

“We had a great response when the call went out,” said Army 2nd Lt. Clayton Harrison, an engineer with the brigade’s Lewisville-based 236th Engineering Company. “We were ready to move out less than 12 hours after we got notified that we'd be responding to this storm.”

Although no one was quite certain what the storm would bring, Harrison said he and his soldiers were in contact with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“According to DPS, we'll assist in vehicle recovery, especially if they end up shutting down the highway,” he said.

On Dec. 6, when the storm had come and gone, the real scope of the job ahead was revealed to Harrison and his soldiers. Although the storm had not dropped much snow on the area, it was the ice underneath that proved to be the biggest challenge for motorists.

“We're from Boise and thought this would be no big deal,” said Jonathan Bilger, a motorist who was passing through to visit family. “We get the snow all the time, but the ice, that's harder to deal with. We're just sliding around like a hockey puck.”

With traffic flow a top priority, members of the Texas Military Forces conducted 24-hour-a-day operations monitoring and assisting citizens along Highways 75, 82, 380 and Interstate 35 near Denison. Simultaneously, personnel from the 840th Engineer Company monitored flow on the icy and slushy roadways of Highways 281, 181, Interstate 35 East and West, and I-20, near Weatherford and Denton.

“Those guys are great,” said Bilger, as he gestured toward several of the soldiers hooking up chains to tow a stranded 18-wheeler. “They're out here helping out, when most of us are just trying to figure out how to get home.”

This view was also shared by the soldiers’ leadership as well.

“These men and women are the epitome of what the Texas Military Forces stands for,” said Army Col. Patrick Hamilton, commander of domestic operations for the Texas Military Forces. “These citizen-soldiers volunteered their time, at a moment's notice, to serve their fellow citizens during a time of need.”

Hamilton added, “It's situations like this that show the caliber of our service members and their ‘Always Ready, Always There’ mentality.”

502nd ABW transforms organizational structure to streamline support functions

by Lori Newman
JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Public Affairs


12/9/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- The 502nd Air Base Wing held a transformation ceremony Dec. 3 to recognize its new organizational structure.

The transformation restructures the 8,000-person 502nd ABW to improve command and control, simplify operations and reduce overhead across functional support areas.

"Over the past three-plus years since we reached full operating capability, the men and women of the 502nd Air Base Wing have worked diligently to provide installation support and service at the largest joint base in the Department of Defense," said Brig. Gen. Bob LaBrutta, Joint Base San Antonio and 502nd ABW commander.

The blueprint for joint basing wasn't specific and the way ahead wasn't always clear, explained LaBrutta. "In fact, you could say that joint bases were designed to be innovative and a work in progress."

Brig. Gen. Theresa C. Carter, the second JBSA/502nd ABW commander, realized the traditional wing structure was neither efficient nor effective.

The former commander said the wing was operating in triplicate and was slow to respond to the customer's needs. Positions were being eliminated and JBSA was still operating as three separate installations and resources and assets needed to support the missions could not be transferred between locations.

Carter made a "bold decision" to reorganize the wing from a traditional structure into a functional structure, LaBrutta said.

To help solve these issues a new organizational structure was formed to streamline support functions into a single organization while retaining critical customer service centers at each location.

"Her vision and efforts are the catalyst that brought us here this morning," LaBrutta said. "As the third 502nd ABW commander, I am honored to propel this organization forward to the next level in our journey, in our evolution.

"It is so important that we fine tune our structure and our processes within the wing so that we can provide premier installation support and service to the mission partners who depend on us so they can concentrate on executing their critical missions in defense of our nation," LaBrutta said.

The new structure realigns command and responsibly under functional support groups. It removes additional integration steps currently necessary at the wing level, enhances responsiveness and allows implementation of consistent processes and procedures across JBSA.

During the ceremony the 502nd, 802nd and 902nd Mission Support Group squadrons inactivated to make way for the new functional structure. Following the inactivation, new groups were activated.

The 502nd Mission Support Group is redesignated as the 502nd Force Support Group at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.

The 502nd Force Support Group includes two force support squadrons, with one focused on morale, welfare and recreation, which includes fitness, child and youth programs and community and student activity centers. The other is focused on personnel and manpower policies/procedures, mlitary and family readiness, dining facilities and lodging.

The 802nd Mission Support Group was redesignated as the 502nd Installation Support Group at JBSA-Lackland.

The 502nd Installation Support Group consolidates and provides civil engineering; communications and operations support squadron functions and sustainment across JBSA. Airfield operations support will be limited to JBSA-Lackland.

The 902nd Mission Support Group was redesignated as the 502nd Security Forces and Logistics Support Group at JBSA-Randolph.

The 502nd Security Forces and Logistics Support Group now includes one logistics readiness squadron, three security forces squadrons and a trainer development squadron.

Three contracting squadrons merge into one squadron and three comptroller squadrons also merge into one.

"Hundreds of people put in countless hours of effort in analyzing and developing this restructure and coordinating it with our mission partners, higher headquarters and air staff," LaBrutta said.

"We are doing something fundamentally different," LaBrutta added. "We are now organized in a functional vice traditional structure--the first that I know of in the Department of Defense."

"I firmly believe that through this action, the 502nd Air Base Wing is formally organized the way that provides us the best opportunity to achieve our vision ... to provide premier installation support to our more than 200 mission partners and 80,000 professionals who come onto Joint Base San Antonio each and every day," the general said.

Reserve medical squadrons amp up training efforts

by Senior Airman Madelyn McCullough
446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


12/10/2013 - MCCHORD FIELD, Wash. -- Citizen Airmen of the 446th Aeromedical Staging and Aeromedical Evacuation Squadrons play on different sides of the same coin when they're deployed in the field. While their roles may go hand-in-hand, they've seldom had the opportunity to train together--until today.

Leadership from the squadron joined forces and built a training program, which allows them to work side-by-side, as they would in a deployed environment--and also allow them to smooth out any potential issues, which may come up.

Dec. 8, they executed the training plan for only second time during the Reserve weekend.

"This is actually just fitting two pieces of the puzzle together," said Lt. Col John Olmedo, 446th AES operations flight commander. "ASTS has their role in terms of taking the patients, AE has their role is to move the patients. We just have not connected the two."
Olmedo and Senior Master Sgt. Jonathan Lapham, 446th ASTS operations flight superintendent were at the core of the program.

"It's trying to keep us in line with the real world," said Senior Master Sgt. Jonathan Lapham, said. "We would, if we were to deploy or if there was a contingency happening, be working hand in hand with AE so we want to actually be able to train that way."

The two squadrons do this by practicing the procedures on one of McChord's C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.

"We're running this as if we were running an actual contingency aeromedical staging facility," Lapham said. "We're staging our patients that have come in from wherever for flight with the air evac squadron. We'll then take these patients out to the aircraft, load them on the aircraft and then AE will take over and fly them on the mission out. Theoretically speaking if we were in theater, our facilities here will have collected these patients we now put them on the aircraft. They're flying them to lahndstuhl Germany, then we'll sort of reverse when they're flight comes back. We'll be on the lahdstuhl side."

The goal is to make the circumstances as close as possible to situations they'd face in the real world, and to maximize the quality of training the Reservists receive.

"There's a number of folks who have not deployed," Olmedo said. "They train to do it, but they don't actually do it. Some of our folks haven't deployed in a while, some of our folks have so the folks who have can train the folks who haven't. It's a good way to keep the sword sharpened."

Reservists will be given the opportunity to really learn things they have only been able to touch on in the past.

"The goal here was not to make it an exercise so to speak because we didn't want that, we didn't want to be encumbered by that," Olmedo said. "This is where people will make the mistakes. We'd rather have them learn and make mistakes here then when it's a real patient."

"You can train in a skills lab or a classroom, you can even do a little bit of hands on, but when you actually get out there and you're working with the aircraft and with that live crew -- that steps it up 100 times," Lapham said. "It boosts morale and you actually get that training. You gain muscle memory as my commander likes to say."

With this training, they will have better communication, they'll be able to compensate and perfect procedures, and they get that opportunity to figure out where their shortfalls are, Laphman said. It's a way to figure out what mistakes they've made and correct them now as opposed to in theater, in a contingency, or in a disaster situation. They'll be at that 100%.

"Realistically this is a low hanging fruit that we haven't taken advantage of in my eyes," Olmedo said. "We have an AMDS here on the base, we have an ASTS, and we have AES. We have every squadron that you would deploy with. But we haven't trained together."

And now that they are training together, the squadrons plan to add it to their normal every UTA training schedules, while still continuously improving procedures to make them as realistic as possible.

Special duties provide NCOs with new experiences, advance careers

by Staff Sgt. Katherine Holt
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs


12/9/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La.  -- Two Barksdale Airmen recently found out they were selected out of 1,000 NCOs across the Air Force for special duties.

When Tech. Sgt. Shanera Ruth found out she was selected to become a Basic Military Training Instructor, she was excited and nervous at the same time.

"I was excited because this is something I've always wanted to do," said Ruth, who is the 2nd Force Support Squadron individual personnel readiness NCO in-charge. "I felt nervous because this is a new adventure in my career."

For Master Sgt. Brandi Burns, 2nd Security Forces Squadron Armory NCO in-charge, the itch to become a first sergeant came when she was put into the assistant position for two weeks.

"After I found out I made master sergeant, my first reaction was that I wanted to apply to be a first sergeant," she said. "After an amazing 18 years in the military it was my time to give back."

For both NCOs, being hand-selected by their leadership for their special duties makes these assignments even more meaningful.

"I was extremely grateful my superiors had that much confidence in me to submit me for the first round of this new process," said Burns.

Ruth agreed.

"I am grateful to my commander for submitting me for this," said Ruth. "It lets me know that she sees something special in me."

Both of these NCOs decided early in their careers to be the best Airmen they could be, and they both agree their efforts led them to being accepted into their respected special duties.

Burns' leadership couldn't agree more.

"Master Sergeant Burns has a dynamic, innovative, and inspiring leadership style that motivates everyone around her to improve themselves and their surroundings," said Chief Master Sgt. John Oblinger, 2nd SFS chief enlisted manager. "She has an infectious positive attitude, the ability to inspire coupled with great communication skills, which makes her the right Airman for this demanding position."

Lt. Col. Diane Benavidez, 2nd Force Support Squadron commander, says she feels Ruth is definitely right for the job.

"Tech. Sgt. Ruth possesses the intellect and ability to mentor and teach our newest Airman," she said. "She is one of the most dedicated NCOs in our unit. Her attention to detail will be a great fit for BMT."

Ruth and Burns look at these new opportunities as a positive impact that will maximize their personal and career growth.

"I think that being a first sergeant will broaden my knowledge base and assist me in becoming a well-rounded Senior NCO," said Burns.

Ruth looks forward to picking up the habits of an MTI while she works toward her goal of becoming a master sergeant and completing her Master's degree program.

"With the amount of discipline MTI's have to have, I know it will carry over to my study habits and I will be able to complete my Master's program," she said.

Leadership, at all levels, say these selections should be coveted and Airmen should strive to be the best of the best.

"We are the world's greatest Air Force due to our Airmen, and we need our best to develop our future Airmen," said Chief Master Sgt. Curtis Storms, 2nd Bomb Wing Command Chief. "I am confident that, with more Airmen like Master Sgt. Burns and Tech. Sgt. Ruth, we will not disappoint."

Burns and Ruth advise Airmen and young NCOs to set goals, be a mentor and not to stay in the same place for long.

"You can shape your career for this type of selection by being the best mentor to others now," said Ruth. "Be the best of the best now, it's never too late."

"Apply for different positions within your unit and don't stagnate in one place too long," said Burns. "Become a master in your job and always aspire to do more."

Both NCOs are scheduled to depart for their training Spring 2014 and are excited for their new adventure.

The next round of nominations for special duties is scheduled for March 2014.

UNC celebrates the 68th anniversary of the United Nations in Japan

by Osakabe Yasuo
374th Airlift Wing public affairs


12/8/2013 - TOKYO, Japan  -- U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas, United Nations Command, Korea, and U.S. Forces Korea deputy commander as well as commander of Air Component Command and 7th Air Force, traveled to Tokyo as the host and guest speaker at a reception honoring the 68th anniversary of the United Nations held Tuesday evening at the New Sanno hotel in Tokyo.

Jouas addressed Japanese and international dignitaries who gathered to honor the founding of the UN, taking time to recognize the unprecedented commitment of the UNC and UNC(R) for the last 60 years.

"With the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953, United Nations Command proved it was a force for action, demonstrating the battle-hardened will of a United Nations resolute in its pursuit of peace,"
Jouas said. "After the ceasefire, UNC member states responded to a Korea in need by providing massive humanitarian aid and reconstruction assistance, highlighting the compassion that is, still today, the foundation of UN action. In so doing, the United Nations set the stage for one of the greatest economic success stories of our time."

The primary purpose of the Armistice Agreement was to insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved. Lacking a permanent treaty, peace on the peninsula in the last 60 years has been made possible by the UNC, UNC(R), the Armistice Agreement, and the US-ROK alliance, which together deter north Korean aggression. The UNC is the main channel for international military support from the UN in the event of a conflict on the Korean peninsula.

"For all sending states, our continued cooperation is essential to the security and stability of Northeast Asia," Jouas said. "As each year passes without war on the Peninsula, UNC continues to showcase its relevance and critical importance to the UN mission. There's no question we will face different, unforeseen challenges in the future."

Yama Sakura Reflects New Approaches in Historic Alliance



By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2013 – An exercise underway in Japan is giving U.S. forces an opportunity to apply the leadership and problem-solving skills they developed in Iraq and Afghanistan as they refocus on the Asia-Pacific theater.

Yama Sakura 65, an annual bilateral exercise between U.S. and Japan, kicked off for its 33rd iteration Nov. 29 and will wrap up within the next few days, Army Lt. Gen. Robert B. Brown, the I Corps commander, told American Forces Press Service.

The largest bilateral ground exercise for the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, Yama Sakura includes about 1,500 U.S. military members and about 4,500 Japanese forces.

For Brown, who first participated in Yama Sakura in the mid-1990s, this year’s exercise represents a tremendous evolution from the one he remembers 17 years ago.

“It’s totally different, like night and day,” he said during a telephone interview today from Japan. “Back then, the Japanese were in one building, planning, and we were in another building. It was really hard to interact.”

Not so today. “Now we are right next to each other, truly working together bilaterally, and learning from each other,” he said.

Working together to confront a notional invasion of Northern Japan, the military forces are maximizing the advantages of technology never dreamed of in the early days of Yama Sakura.
Only about 1,000 of the U.S. participants are on the ground in Japan. The rest, Brown explained, are in simulation centers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; in Hawaii, South Korea and several other locations.

“We are much more efficient today than in the past because we put money into simulations. That has really paid dividends in saving money, yet still providing an effective and realistic exercise,” he said. “Instead of everyone having to Japan to participate, they are up on [video teleconferences] at their home bases every single day. So you still have that realism, but in a more efficient manner.”

Another departure for Yama Sakura is that military forces are operating directly with their interagency and intergovernmental counterparts to replicate a joint, interagency, inter-governmental and multinational or “JIIM” domain.

For example, during the course of the execution phase of the exercise wrapping up this week, Japanese civil authorities worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the military participants to conduct a notional civilian evacuation. They hammered out the specifics of how they would conduct it and where they would send the evacuees and planned for some of the complications they would likely confront during a real-world event.

“I wish we had exercises more in the JIIM environment before deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan, because it is more realistic,” Brown said. “We used to say we wouldn’t fight unless we were joint. Well, that is a given now. But I don’t think we will ever fight again unless we are truly joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational. It is the way the world has changed.”

Among those changes are the operational challenges posed by cyber threats. “Cyber is something we didn’t use to practice a lot, but now we include it in every exercise,” including Yama Sakura, Brown said.

Participants are practicing defensive cyber operations, which Brown said begins with recognizing attacks or attempted attacks on networks and reporting them to the appropriate authorities.

Many cyber attacks go unrecognized because users mistake temporary outages or unusual activity on their networks for the kind of interruptions they sometimes get on their cell phones, he explained. “It’s often a cyber attack or somebody trying to phish for information and folks don’t even know,” he said. “So the first thing is getting them to pay attention and report it, and we are playing that a lot in the exercise.”

While much has changed in the Yama Sakura exercise, Brown said its goals of promoting communication, understanding and interoperability haven’t.

Although the scenario was based on a fictitious invasion, Brown said the way Japanese and U.S. military and governmental personnel responded could apply to just about any situation – including one like the devastating earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster that struck Japan in 2011.

“This really could be about just anything,” he said. “It is putting you in a challenging situation so you learn to work together and build trust and confidence among your allies.”

Like many other U.S. allies and partners in the region, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members are anxious to learn the lessons U.S. forces have learned over the past 12 years of sustained combat, Brown said.

“This is the most experienced generation, operationally, that we have ever had,” he said. “They bring in incredible experience that our allies are very hungry for….[Those allies] definitely respect that we have been tested in the toughest of conditions in combat, and they really want to learn the lessons.”

Those lessons, he noted, include leadership and problem-solving skills that would apply as much during a humanitarian assistance and disaster response mission as in combat.


U.S. allies “understand that it is not technology, it is our noncommissioned officers that make us the best Army in the world,” Brown said.

As U.S. NCOs partnered extensively with Japanese forces during Yama Sakura, they shared insights into areas beyond traditional military operations, including suicide prevention, resiliency and sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention, he noted.

But the learning wasn’t all one-way. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force has “tremendous planning skills,” Brown said, and its members happily shared them with the U.S. forces.

“I can’ tell you how excited the soldiers are to be here,” he said. “They are working right next to their Japanese counterparts. They are learning about their culture, their traditions, and learning from them about how they plan and operate. It’s just neat to see.”

Brown said he expects the after-action review to follow the exercise’s conclusion to be “fascinating” as it takes the process from past Yama Sakura exercises to a new level. “I think we are going to get even better lessons learned,” he said.

As I Corps continues to change from its Middle East focus to support the U.S. balance to the Asia-Pacific theater, Brown said the experiences gained during exercises like Yama Sakura will go a long way in promoting the relationships that will allow the U.S.-Japan alliance to continue to grow.

“When you learn about each other and learn how to operate together and cooperate better, you get a personal view of each other than can pay off in the long term,” he said. “And in the future, if something would happen, … we know we could come together and work together well.”

That foundation is critical, he said, borrowing what has become a popular truism, “because you can surge troops and numbers, but you can’t surge trust.”

“We exercise and practice together because you don’t want to learn this the first time in the middle of a crisis,” he said. “You don’t want to go to the Super Bowl without having scrimmaged or worked together. You have to have those repetitions: be together to learn and build trust that enables effective command.

“If you can do it efficiently and effectively in exercises like this, it is worth its weight in gold, because you are training the way you are going to end up fighting or responding to a crisis,” he said.