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News | Aug. 31, 2020

U.S. Army Japan and Ground Component Command build upon bilateral readiness and interoperability during COVID-19

By Kevin Krejcarek U.S. Army Japan

Lt. Gen. Yoshihide Yoshida, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Ground Component Command commanding general, was welcomed by Maj. Gen. Viet X. Luong, U.S. Army Japan’s commanding general, and Sgt. Maj. Christopher E. Magee, USARJ’s senior enlisted advisor here Aug. 20.

Marking his first visit to USARJ since assuming the position in April, the generals and key leaders met to discuss maintaining bilateral readiness and cooperation despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The ability to host bilateral senior leader engagements during COVID-19 is critical to maintaining our readiness and ensuring we remain properly postured with our JGSDF partners in the event of a contingency in the AOR,” said Luong, a Southern California native. “COVID has placed some additional stress on the force, but we continue to engage to enhance bilateral readiness and interoperability with our JGSDF partners within a constrained environment.”

The GCC was established at Camp Asaka in 2018 under the Minister of Defense and tasked to command JGSDF’s five regional armies and organic units. They also employ JGSDF members nationwide for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions that emerge during emergency situations. 

This gives the GCC the ability to rapidly posture combat power to decisive locations, including remote islands, which enhances the effectiveness of Japan’s joint forces and the joint targeting process. 

In addition, they are tasked with coordinating with both the Air and Maritime Self-Defense Forces, as well as the Army and Marine Corps encompassing the U.S. ground forces. To better enhance coordination, the GCC established the Bilateral Coordination Department, which is collocated at Camp Zama. 

While USARJ is the smallest of the four U.S. military service branches in Japan, it is partnered with Japan’s largest component, the JGSDF, and remains an enduring presence through all phases of the operation and a critical enabler to the joint force. 

During the visit the general was given a briefing on the structure and mission of USARJ and the command’s campaign plan, which Luong said was aimed at where the command would be over the next five years. Over the upcoming years the goals are to be set for contingencies, be multi-domain capable, and achieve enhancements in joint warfighting through realistic, annual bilateral exercises as Orient Shield and Yama Sakura. 

The GCC will be looking at this campaign plan to not only improve on theirs, but also to concentrate on shared objectives while working together to integrate them into the upcoming Yama Sakura exercise later this year for increased interoperability and realism.

“The ability to share and discuss the Campaign Support Plan with our JGSDF counterparts provides invaluable capacity that we can both use to strengthen the U.S.-Japan Alliance,” said Col. Matthew N. Metzel, USARJ’s director of strategic effects. “It allows us to nest our four lines of effort and helps shape and influence collaboration among our forces.”

Building capacity and interoperability between forces improves partnership and builds even more on the Alliance. The ideas discussed during this visit will help the GCC shape the JGSDF to stay ahead as it modernizes and begins to incorporate cross-domain operations into an integrated Joint Force.

In closing, Luong said, “I have been extended another year and I look forward to working with you and your staff.”