Feb. 14 (UPI) -- The Iron Fist 2019 multilateral training event concluded earlier this month, which included the certification of Japan's first amphibious assault force.
The 14th installment of Iron First also marked the first time Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers brought their own amphibious assault vehicles, the U.S. Marine Corps said in a release this week.
Iron Fist, held in Southern California, was one of two training exercises between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force this month. The other, Forest Light 19.2, will conclude Friday in Japan's Aibano Maneuver Area and has included roughly 400 U.S. Marines based in Okinawa, the Marine Corps said in a separate release.
"Separated by nearly 10,000 miles of the Pacific Ocean, these exercises are taking place at the same time." U.S. Lt. Col. Denny Meerlarp said in a video this week. "U.S.-Japan exercises like these are vital for rapid expeditionary response to support regional security."
Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers with the newly minted 1st Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade took part in the Iron Fist exercises, which included tasks in sharpshooting, amphibious reconnaissance and landing missions, and other areas, the Marine Corps said. Classes at Forest Light 19.2 covered material on unmanned aerial systems and improvised explosive devices, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said on Twitter.
Making matters more difficult in Southern California, soldiers had to contend with rain during many of the exercises this year, Marine Corps Col. Kevin Clark said.
U.S. Maj. Gen. Robert F. Castellvi said at the closing ceremony on Feb. 8 that Iron Fist 2019 was "another step forward in strengthening the important relationship between the U.S. Marine Corps and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force."
Castellvi highlighted the progress he thinks the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force is making.
"The development brought about by [Japan's] own assault amphibious vehicles significantly increases [their] ability to employ amphibious combat power and keep the people of Japan safe from our adversaries," Castellvi said.
U.S. Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman said Iron Fist's benefits flow toward the U.S. military, as well.
"I can't emphasize how important this training has been for both of our nations," Osterman said. "Iron Fist has sharpened our amphibious capabilities to quickly deploy sea-based assets in a multinational environment. Globally, naval expeditionary forces provide an important stabilizing capability for today's unpredictable threats."