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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 July 4 - 10  > U.S. marines conducting comprehensive combat training for Iraq operations on mainland Japan
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2007 July 4 - 10 [US FORCES]

U.S. marines conducting comprehensive combat training for Iraq operations on mainland Japan

July 3, 2007
Ten years have passed since the government relocated live-shell firing drills of Okinawa-based U.S. Marine Corps units using 155 mm howitzers from Okinawa to mainland Japan under the pretext of reducing burdens on Okinawa.

Despite the government assurance that the drills on the mainland are the same as in Okinawa “in quality and quantity,” they have been drastically expanded and turned into comprehensive combat training exercises for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Night drill

“We’ve been in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” said a commander of a USMC artillery unit (3rd battalion, 12th Regiment) in January 2006, revealing that they actually carried out combat training for operations in Iraq despite their repeated statements that their training has nothing to do with Iraq.

The Marines used to conduct live-shell firing exercises at U.S. Camp Hansen in Okinawa and complained about the short range there (five kilometers).

Under the 1996 Special Action Committee final agreement, the U.S. relocated live-shell firing drills to Ground Self-Defense Force training sites at Yausubetsu (Hokkaido), Ojojihara (Miyagi Pref.), Kita Fuji (Yamanashi Pref.), Higashi Fuji (Shizuoka Pref.), and Hijudai (Oita Pref.).

This relocation enabled the Marines to extend the firing range up to 17 kilometers (at Yausubetsu). They also began conducting firing exercises at night and training exercises for nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare, including the use of weapons such as White Phosphorous shells.

Security duties

The training exercises changed their character after the Iraq War began in 2003. The Marines started to conduct drills using machine guns for the defense of their units from possible attacks while moving gun platforms.

The training in Japan “is going to give an opportunity to train in providing fire support in Iraq and Afghanistan,” reported the July 21, 2006 issue of “Okinawa Marine,” the Okinawa-based USMC newspaper.

Artillery units that were stationed in Japan in the last one to two years were in fact sent to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 3rd Battalion of the 12th Regiment which was deployed to Iraq between October 2006 and April 2007 lost one Marine in combat.

Battery A of the 1st Battalion (the 12th Regiment) based in Hawaii, conducted training exercises to escort vehicles and set up checkpoints in their training at Higashi Fuji in September 2006. The unit was assigned to security duty when it was relocated to Iraq this year.

Japan paid 10 billion yen for U.S. drills

Since 1997, the Marines conducted such drills four times a year. However, they cancelled the planned drill at Hijudai in January 2004. This year, they already cancelled two drills at Hijudai in February and at Kita Fuji in June.

The USMC command in Japan refused to comment on this development in detail, but it is obvious that behind the cancellations of training exercises lies the shortage of military personnel caused by the prolonged war in Iraq.

USMC operational units are deployed to Okinawa from the U.S. mainland on six or seven month-shifts. However, a unit (California-based Battery E of the 2nd Battalion, 11th Regiment) which was to replace another that had already gone back to U.S. in February arrived in Okinawa behind schedule because they had to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq until April.

In order to support USMC live-shell firing drills, the Japanese government has spent more than ten billion yen to construct facilities for their exclusive use. The government is providing de facto new bases for the U.S. forces so that they may fight unlawful preemptive wars, a far cry from the argument of easing burdens on Okinawa. - Akahata, July 3, 2007
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