December 3, 2008

Virginia and Maryland Guard Soldiers supporting exercise in Japan and Hawaii

From Staff Reports

Brig. Gen. Peter Hinz discusses Yama Sakura 55 with Japanese Lt. Gen. Kazushi Izumi, Japanese Ground Self Defense Force Eastern Army Commander at a pre-exercise social get-together aboard the Japanese Naval Auxiliary Vessel Hasidate, docked in Tokyo Bay, Dec. 5, 2008. Hinz is commander of Task Force Dragon, part of 29th ID's participation in Yama Sakura 55 at Camp Asaka, Japan. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Roy Henry)

RICHMOND, Va. — More than 100 Virginia and Maryland Army National Guard Soldiers from the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division and the Staunton-based 116th Brigade Combat Team are currently serving in Japan and Hawaii in support of U.S. Pacific Command exercise called "Yama Sakura 55". Yama Sakura (meaning Mountain Cherry Blossom in Japanese) is a weeklong command post exercise scheduled this year from Dec. 7 to 13 at Camp Asaka, Japan.

"By training with our Japanese allies in Yama Sakura 55, the 29th Infantry Division shows our Soldiers are relevant and ready for global missions in support of our nation's defense interests," said Brig. Gen. Peter Hinz, 29th Infantry Division task force commander for YS 55. Approximately 75 Soldiers from the 29th ID are participating in a simulation exercise at Camp Asaka, Japan, located about two hours by bus from Tokyo. The 29th is supporting the overall Pacific Command mission of defending Japan from outside attack, in keeping with United States' treaty obligations, Hinz said. Of the roughly 75 Soldiers taking part in the exercise, approximately 55 are Virginia National Guard and the remaining 20 are Maryland Army National Guard.

Approximately 35 Soldiers of the 116th Brigade Combat Team are stationed at Schoefield Barracks, Hawaii and are acting as one of the subordinate brigades of the 29th, said Capt. Nevin Blankenship, public affairs officer for the 116th.

Two liaison officers from the brigade departed with the 29th on Dec. 1, and they will work with the Japanese military throughout the exercise where they will coordinate with units in Hawaii and their Japanese military counterparts, Blankenship said. Approximately 36 Soldiers from the brigade’s main body departed on Dec. 2. 

Blankenship said the unit hoped to conduct a historical tour of Pearl Harbor during breaks from shift work during the exercise.

The 116th will join other National Guard units from Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin taking part in the exericse. Additionally, units from the active Army, Marines and Navy are participating in the exercise, Blankenship said.

According to the U. S. Army web site, Yama Sakura is the most important bilateral exercise the U.S. Army conducts with our closest ally in the Pacific; Japan. The web site also stated that the exercise is a shining example of the continued commitment by the United States and Japan to work as dedicated partners in support of the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance, and for continued peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

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