Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Ferguson shows a Japanese soldier the information needed to request close air support during Exercise Iron Fist in 2012. (Cpl. John Robbart III / Marine Corps)
OCEANSIDE, Calif. — About 200 soldiers with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force are joining Marines and sailors this month for the start of the annual “Iron Fist” interoperability exercise in Southern California, the Marine Corps announced.
The bilateral training exercise will begin Jan. 22 with an opening ceremony at Camp Pendleton, Calif., according to I Marine Expeditionary Force officials.
About 1,000 Marines and sailors with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit will participate in the training, said Capt. Ted Vickers, the 13th MEU spokesman at Camp Pendleton. Additional personnel with I MEF and San Diego-based Amphibious Squadron 1 also will join in during Iron Fist, which will run through Feb. 15.
The exercise will include mechanized training at Camp Pendleton, amphibious training on San Clemente Island and combined-arms training at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Vickers said.
Unlike previous years, the Japanese troops will spend about a week at the Mojave Desert combat center, where they will practice small-unit tactics and conduct close-air support and live-fire and maneuver training with the Marines.
The bilateral force will fly out to sea and spend several days aboard the amphibious assault ship Boxer and dock landing ship Pearl Harbor for amphibious and live-fire training on San Clemente Island, which lies about 70 miles west of San Diego. The training will include naval gunfire support with the guided missile cruiser Lake Champlain, Vickers said.
Iron Fist will culminate in a two-day final exercise, starting Feb. 13, in which the force will move by air, assault vehicles and landing craft from Boxer and Pearl Harbor to Camp Pendleton. They will make an amphibious landing at Red Beach and conduct urban operations training at a nearby combat town, he said.
The Marine Corps is housing the Japanese soldiers at Camp Pendleton’s Edson Range, where they will stay in barracks and eat meals in the chow hall when they are not conducting field training, Vickers said. Edson Range is home to Weapons Field Training Battalion with Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.