Coordinates are barked out and then quickly echoed by a group eager to display their expertise. Like a surgeon calling for an instrument of precision, the team leader calls for his weapon of choice. The command to drop is followed by reverberating blasts in the distance. Plumes of smoke reveal the deadly accuracy and effectiveness of the mortar teams of 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, Monday, during Orient Shield 12 at Aibano Training Area, Shiga Prefecture, Japan.
Soldiers from 1-14th out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and troops from the Japan Ground Self Defense Force, or JGSDF, took turns displaying their mortar-firing abilities, impacting the cliffs of a Japanese mountain range.
“Today we are doing a bilateral training mission with the Japan Ground Self Defense Force,” said 1st Lt. Eli M. Gaylor, from Lagrange, Ky., a platoon leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-14th. “We are firing our 60-millimeter and 81-millimeter mortars during a live-fire exercise while working with our counterparts in the Japan Ground Self Defense Force.”
Although being proficient in their skills is important, connecting the two forces is just as important in some aspects. According to exercise objectives, forging a friendship and trust that will go beyond the brief training period is paramount. Each interaction or memory created between the two forces helps to solidify a connection that will move into the future.
“I think both countries benefit from the bilateral training we do,” said Pvt. Benjamin D. Mansfield from Worms, Germany, a mortarman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company. “We help each other out by improving techniques and procedures. We also create a stronger bond between the two nations.”
Gaylor echoed that sentiment.
“So far we’ve had a great time training with the Japanese,” said Gaylor. “There is a small language barrier, but we lucked out because our counterparts speak fairly good English.”
In addition to training in live-fire exercises together, the two forces participate in physical training (PT) and friendly competitions.
“My guys have had a lot of fun training with the Japanese, racing them in gun drills, and doing PT with them,” said Gaylor. “We had a lot of fun listening to Japanese cadences. We didn’t know what they were saying, but it sounded good. On the races, they were faster on their equipment and we were faster on ours, which is to be expected, but everyone had a lot of fun.”
Orient Shield 12, the 13th iteration of the bilateral training exercise, is scheduled to end Nov. 7.