Keen Sword 17
By Airman 1st Class Corey M. Pettis, 18th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 14, 2016
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- U.S. and Japan Air Self-Defense Force Rescue Squadrons participated in Exercise Keen Sword 17, which started Oct. 30.
Keen Sword is the largest joint, bilateral field training exercise between the U.S. military and the Japan Self-Defense Force and involves U.S. forces and the JSDF from all components of both militaries.
These forces are training to conduct bilateral operations in support of the defense of Japan and this exercise is designed to increase combat readiness and interoperability within the framework of the U.S.-Japan alliance.
“Operational readiness is a guiding principle for U.S. Forces, Japan,” said USFJ Commander Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez. “Keen Sword 17 is an opportunity to increase readiness by providing a realistic training environment for U.S. forces and the JSDF to practice, evaluate and improve our coordination procedures and interoperability requirements.”
Approximately 11,000 U.S. military personnel participated in KS17, including those assigned to U.S. Forces Japan Headquarters, 5th Air Force, U.S. Naval Forces Japan, U.S. Army Japan, III Marine Expeditionary Force and 7th Fleet. The forces conducted training with their JSDF counterparts at military installations throughout mainland Japan, Okinawa and in the air and waters surrounding Japan, Guam and Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands.
Significant training activities during KS17 included air and sea operations, integrated air and missile defense, and ballistic missile defense in order to keep pace with the growing ballistic missile threat in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
The Okinawan portion of the exercise included rescue operations involving JASDF, 31st and 33rd Rescue Squadrons, with support from the 353rd Special Operations Group.
The RS set up a mobile command center on Kadena to simulate conducting operations away from home, such as in a deployed environment.
“Our helicopters are a bit slower than our fixed-wing counterparts so we have to be a little closer to the action,” said Maj. Andrew Fink, Keen Sword Okinawa commander. “Just like what we did during operation Tomadachi for the tsunami in northern Japan, we can set up a command center and conduct a search and rescue operation anywhere in the world.”
A key part of this exercise is the bilateral operations between U.S. and JASDF forces when it comes to search and rescue.
JASDF and U.S. rescue squadrons practiced in-flight refueling as well as a mass-casualty exercise rescuing survivors of a simulated downed aircraft in the open ocean.
Fink explained JASDF rescue units hold a 24/7 alert, so they are the first to respond.
“We’re here as a backup and for U.S.-only rescue operations,” he said. “However, our Japanese counterparts are very capable in search and rescue.”
As U.S. and JASDF forces continue to work together, they improve on interoperability between the two nations, which is vital to safety and peace in the region.
“The Indo-Asia-Pacific region holds the majority of the world’s people and trade. As we face an increasingly tense security environment, large-scale field training exercises like Keen Sword are a decisive demonstration of the strength of our alliance, as well as our shared commitment to peace and stability in the region,” Martinez said.