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Minnesota National Guard
Red Bulls participate in Yama Sakura

YS15 JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Washington - Soldiers of the 34th "Red Bull" Infantry Division headquarters based out of Rosemount, Minnesota, traveled to Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, in late November to conduct a premier military-to-military training exercise with the Japanese army in support of the U.S. and Japan partnership.

The command post exercise, known as Yama Sakura, is a simulation-driven training event between U.S. Army I Corps and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. The 34th Infantry Division is a subordinate unit of I Corps.

"This is the second time the 34th Infantry Division has participated in the Yama Sakura training event in the past five years," said 34th ID Deputy Commander of Sustainment Brig. Gen. William Lieder. "Not only does this exercise improve the readiness and interoperability of our Soldiers, but it also builds trust and confidence between the U.S. and Japanese militaries, which is key to maintaining a peaceful Asia-Pacific region.

"The exercise is mainly geared toward I Corps, but the 34th Infantry Division assists with their corps-level training by feeding information up to higher levels," said Lieder. "In doing so, the Red Bull Soldiers get an opportunity to contribute to U.S.-Japan relationship building while receiving highly-realistic training that will in turn sharpen their skills."

During the exercise, approximately 200 Red Bull Soldiers worked from the Mission Training Complex on Joint Base Lewis McChord, and a handful of Soldiers worked as liaisons in Hawaii or Japan. Although most Red Bull Soldiers are not working side-by-side with Japanese counterparts, the training they receive is invaluable should there ever be a need to respond to a crisis in the Pacific, Lieder said.

"The scenario we are using in the exercise is challenging," said Maj. Brian Douty, 34th Infantry Division Deputy Effects Coordinator. "It is structured around the defense of Japan, and its constraints have really tested our fires knowledge. In the past, training scenarios were focused on either Iraq or Afghanistan, so it's been a refreshing change of pace."

Douty, a field artillery officer with nearly 18 years of experience and two combat deployments, has a personal tie to this exercise; his mother is a first generation Japanese-American.

"I would have really liked to have gone over to Japan for this exercise since I am half Japanese," he said, "but it's been interesting being involved in the exercise regardless... it's a scenario where I am fighting alongside people who share my heritage."

"I'm hoping we can be involved in this exercise again in the future," said Douty, a Pipestone, Minnesota, native. "I might actually have the opportunity to visit Japan and work more closely with the Japanese forces. It would be interesting to see if I had any distant family in the Japanese military."

The partnership between the U.S. and Japan spans more than 60 years, dating back to the 1951/1960 security treaty. This is the 34th iteration of the Yama Sakura exercise, the first of which took place in 1982.

"The 34th Inf.antry Division is perfectly positioned to participate in Yama Sakura," said Lieder. "The Red Bulls have participated in every major command post exercise offered to active components and we've been successful in every single evaluation."

December 8, 2015
by Master Sgt. Ashlee J. L. Sherrill
34th Infantry Division Public Affairs



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