CAMP KINSER, OKINAWA, Japan -- Hundreds of officer candidates with the Japan Ground Self Defense Force gathered March 9 at Camp Kinser's Surfside as part of the Japanese Observer Exchange Program.
The annual event is designed to foster interoperability and promote good relations between the JGSDF and the III Marine Expeditionary Force, according to Capt. Jared A. Laurin, the deputy officer-in-charge for 3rd Marine Logistics Group's Tactics Readiness and Training section, which hosted the daylong event.
"This is meant to familiarize how (each organization) functions," Laurin said. "They gain a basic understanding of how the Marine Corps works, and as they grow as professionals in their military, it'll help us when we work with them in the future."
This year's exchange program began two weeks earlier when 3rd MLG sent 12 Marines to mainland Japan. JGSDF soldiers gave the Marines a martial arts demonstration and lessons on how the JGSDF operates logistically.
Maj. Rodney Legowski, the officer-in-charge for TRT, opened the event at the Surfside, educating the JGSDF candidates about the structure and different components of a Marine Air Ground Task Force, such as III MEF.
Legowski showed how units on Okinawa divide major subordinate commands, such as 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, which functions as III MEF's air combat element, and 3rd Marine Division, which is III MEF's ground combat element, to accomplish any mission in the Pacific theater.
Kazumi Kadowaki, an officer candidate at the event, said she was especially interested in III MEF's combat service support element, 3rd MLG, because of her career choice as a transportation officer in the JGSDF.
"I look forward to bringing the information I have learned back to my unit," she said.
Marines also explained to the JGSDF candidates aspects of its Military Operations in Urbanized Terrain training.
"I was very impressed by how smooth Marines do MOUT," said Eisuke Miura, an officer candidate at the event.
Miura said he noticed many differences regarding how Marines and JGSDF soldiers execute MOUT training, but the basic concepts are the same.
The final portion of the exchange was a static display of weapons commonly used by Marines during training and combat situations.
Officials from both organizations expressed their pleasure in accommodating each other's service members and look forward to next year's exchange program.
"As long as we're out here in Japan, our relationship with its military is crucial to remaining an effective fighting force in the Pacific," Laurin said. "It's opportunities like this that maintain that good working relationship."