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NEWS | Dec. 13, 2021

Army Reserve Soldiers Support Yama Sakura 81

By 1st Lt. Philip Regina 9th Mission Support Command

In a time where our Nation’s defense strategy continues to pivot to the Pacific, strengthening relationships with allies and partners remains key in defining the U.S. Army’s role in the region. In an effort to support this effort, each year, U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) participates in Exercise Yama Sakura, the largest joint and bilateral command post exercise between the U.S. and Japan.

The U.S. Army Reserve’s (USAR) unique capabilities are a key compliment to USARPAC’s involvement in the exercise. This is evidenced in the 9th Mission Support Command’s (MSC) support of the 40th iteration of Yama Sakura (YS81).

“The 9th MSC has several capabilities to supplement our active-duty counterparts and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) partners such as medical support, Civil Affairs and supplemental command-post assets. We are filling roles that they do not necessarily have within their own ranks,” said Maj. Christopher T. Tucker, Civil Liaison Team Chief for the 9th MSC’s 322 Civil Affairs Brigade.

YS81 is the largest joint and bilateral command post exercise conducted by USARPAC and the JGSDF and is designed to increase joint force lethality, enhance design and posture, and strengthen alliances and partnerships.

YS81 took place primarily in Japan with participants representing nearly all components of the Department of Defense. 9th MSC Soldiers supported the exercise both in Japan, as well remotely at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

“My role in the exercise was to serve as a brigade commander for a subordinate unit to the headquarters element operating in Japan. This is one of the many instances in which our brigade supports various types of training events with active-duty and allies in the region,” said Lt. Col. Gordon Knowles, a plans officer for the 9th MSC’s 303rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB).

“These training events enable greater integration with our active-duty counterparts as well as our allies in the Indo-Pacific region and helps prepare us for future scenarios that would require joint, inter-agency and multi-component cooperation,” added Knowles.

A joint exercise that spans nearly the entirety of the Pacific requires a variety of support and the 9th MSC is critical in this endeavor.

“The 9th MSC was critical in planning operations for the ‘front line’ and for the security of the active duty’s ‘rear’ during the simulated scenario of the exercise. Our combined efforts is what made the exercise a success,” explained Spc. Claude S. Sanders, a 303rd MEB simulation operator for the exercise.

For Sanders, supporting YS81 was more than professional obligation, it was also of personal significance.

“Being Japanese-American myself, I think that the people of Japan should know that if the time comes and when help is required, the 9th MSC is prepared to answer the call,” said Sanders.

Beyond the strategic and tactical benefit of participating in exercises that involve allied nations, the people-to-people connection bridges cultural and linguistic differences. Yama Sakura, translates to “mountain blossom” and not unlike the welcomed yearly blossoming of springtime cherry blossoms-the American Soldiers and their Japan Ground Self-Defense Force counterparts welcome the yearly blossoming of old and new friendships which YS81 enables.

“This country is amazing. I have never operated in Japan and have been pleasantly surprised by their willingness to learn and share. The people here are very kind and helpful. Our partners are smart and organized and really want to get the job done,” said Tucker.