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YOKOHAMA NORTH DOCK, Japan — Japan Ground Self-Defense Force leaders toured a U.S. Army landing craft utility vessel here Wednesday as part of a familiarization event hosted by the 10th Support Group.
Soldiers led the tour of LCU Calaboza and spoke of the vessel’s capabilities to more than a dozen leaders in JGSDF’s Middle Army, which is headquartered near Osaka and protects a region comprised of numerous islands.
“This event is a stepping stone to building better bilateral relationships,” said Lt. Col. Yong Choe, operations officer for the 10th SG. “The relationships that we build, even though it’s on a small scale, will go a long way.”
The JGSDF currently does not have watercraft and mainly relies on Japan’s maritime force and civilian ships to transport troops and equipment by sea.
Japanese Col. Motokazu Suzuki, G-3 operations chief for the Middle Army, said the JGSDF has been considering the addition of watercraft to its force.
The event allowed Suzuki and other headquarters staff members to improve their knowledge of how the U.S. Army utilizes watercraft as well as see one up close.
“Today’s visit is kind of a lesson learned for us,” he said.
During the tour, Soldiers showed the Japanese partners the LCU’s bridge, where two crew members steer the vessel, as well as the living quarters, engine room and other sections of the vessel.
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Chief Warrant Officer 3 Allan Pulsifer, liaison officer for the 10th SG’s PULSE-W, helped conduct a capabilities brief to the leaders before the tour.
PULSE-W, or Pacific Utilities Logistic Support Enablers–Watercraft, is a rotation of Army vessels that supports various exercises and missions in the region.
Pulsifer said the leader professional development event, which was the first to be held for JGSDF members, helped provide more awareness of the support the U.S. Army has available to Japan forces.
“This is their first exposure [to this event] and also being on the craft,” he said, “so hopefully it should bridge some gaps and build our joint partnership with Japan.”
LCUs, which are used for tactical resupply and logistics-over-the-shore operations, are small but still provide a heavy-lift capability. The vessels can carry up to either five M1 Abrams tanks, 24 double-stacked shipping containers or 400 combat-equipped troops — about the same payload capacity of seven C-17 aircraft.
Japanese Col. Momoko Matsuda, G-4 logistics chief for the Middle Army, said she did not know the U.S. Army had watercraft until the former 10th SG commander told her about them two years ago.
“At that time, I became so interested in this unit,” she said, “and my staff was also very curious.”
Since Japan is a nation of islands, Matsuda has recognized the value of watercraft in helping transport troops and equipment.
“It’s beneficial for us to know about a U.S. Army vessel unit,” she said. “It’s very important to see, and I’m so excited to visit and talk [with the Soldiers].”
Maj. Matthew Castiglione, a U.S. Army Japan liaison officer who works with the Middle Army staff, expects other Japan regional army leaders to soon participate in similar events to increase their knowledge.
“As an alliance partner, we are committed to help strengthen our JGSDF counterparts and increase interoperability,” he said. “This is one of the ways of doing that by introducing them to additional equipment and capability that may benefit them in their defense of Japan.”
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