Bullets were flying from snipers, helicopters, tanks and ground units during a live fire exercise on Monday at the Yakima Training Center.

The live fire training exercise was part of a training operation between U.S. and Japanese soldiers called Rising Thunder.

Japanese soldiers from the Japan Ground Self Defense Force, 33rd infantry regiment 10th division and U.S. soldiers in units from Joint Base Lewis-McChord partnered this month for a three-week training operation called Rising Thunder.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nathan Bowen said the exercise is an example of the partnerships the U.S. Army is trying to cultivate with foreign militaries in the Pacific region.

"One of the main things is that we provide a training center that allows them to train and use weaponry that they cannot use in Japan, whether it's because of restrictions or the actual physical limitations of ranges they have there compared to what we can provide with the range we have here," Bowen said. "They can't exactly fire their tanks over the islands there because of required buffer zones and the amount of space you would need to really use their equipment to its full capabilities."

Learning

Almost 250 soldiers from Japan spent three weeks taking classes, firing weapons and practicing movements. They had their tanks and equipment shipped over prior to their arrival. They also spent time playing games and sharing meals.

Their mission was supported by about 500 American soldiers, mainly from the 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

The operation was bilateral, meaning U.S. soldiers were supporting the operation, but Japanese soldiers reported to Japanese leaders.

"What we've been doing the last two weeks is paying attention to each other's tactics, what we can learn from them and what they can learn from us," Bowen said. "It's worked very well."

Capt. Larry Harris, Commander for C Company, 4-23 Infantry Battalion, 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team said the language barrier wasn't an issue because his Japanese counterpart was formerly an interpreter and some Japanese soldiers spoke English.

"It's a unique partnership getting to maneuver with a foreign unit," Harris said. "It's all coordination signals to shift fire. … They just don't have the real estate in Japan (for training)."

Live fire

The three weeks of training culminated with a 36-hour training exercise on Monday where the soldiers had to put together all of the skills they practiced during rehearsals into one cohesive mission from beginning to end.

"Throughout the last two weeks they've gone to various ranges like the shoothouse, the urban assault course," Bowen said. "They've done a tank gunnery and aerial sniper training. They've sort of been rehearsing different components of this big culminating exercise."

Part of the final exercise was a live fire training on an urban assault course at the Yakima Training Center.

During the operation, snipers and helicopters went in to attack a mock village first, spraying gunshots at targets throughout the village.

Japanese tanks, called T-74s, then rolled down the hill and released fire, while Americans set up along the hillside to provide backup for the ground soldiers.

Then the Japanese platoons ran down the hill and practiced clearing the mock village. They moved in small groups from building to building, checking around all doors and windows and covering each other.

Review

The exercise at the urban assault course was successful, and soldiers were able to take a break afterward until their next exercise that night.

Japanese Major Koki Inoye, from the Japan Ground Self Defense Force, was pleased with the operation, and said it was his first time participating in training at the Yakima Training Center.

"It's going really well," he said. “Our soldiers are having a good training."

This was the 22nd iteration of Rising Thunder. Each year a different division of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force from Japan participates in the training.

The soldiers were scheduled to do a download after the final training exercise to review everything that happened.

Rising Thunder will end on Friday with a closing ceremony at the Yakima Training Center Parade Field.

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