Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Manila, Philippines (4E) – Combat infantry from the United States Marine Corps, the Philippine Marines and Japan’s equivalent of a Marine unit, the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB), are currently training for amphibious assaults in the steaming heat of the Philippines.
More than 150 men of the ARDB, a tenth of this unit’s total strength, plus their American-made AAV-P7/A1s, are training on a variety of military operations in the province of Zambales north of Manila. The 1,500-man ARDB was activated only last April. Its mission is to defeat Chinese troops that might invade the Japanese-held Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The Japanese Marines are in the Philippines to train for this purpose.
The Japanese Marines staged an amphibious assault exercise along with troops from the Philippine Marines and U.S. Marines last week. This is the first time since World War II that a military unit of Japan’s army has been deployed to a foreign country.
The Japanese Marines that took part in a mock beach assault at Zambales stormed ashore in their AAV-P7/A1s. These assault amphibious vehicles are also the first Japanese armored vehicles Japan has deployed in a foreign country since World War II.
The Americans said the war drills, which is codenamed “Exercise Kamandag” (the Filipino word for venom), aren’t directed at any country, but are being staged amid heightened tensions with China.
Exercise Kamandag was first launched in 2017. It focuses on counterterrorism, disaster response, and interoperability. Kamandaag is an acronym for the Filipino phrase, “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat.” This translates into “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea.” Kamandag 2018 began Oct. 2 and will end Oct. 11.
Major Koki Inoue of the ARDB said Japanese infantry didn’t take part in the combat portion of the exercise. He did admit Kamandag was the first time the Japanese military’s armored vehicles had been used on foreign soil since World War II.
Maj. Inoue said Japan’s purpose in joining Kamandag is to improve its operational capability. He also said the exercise is a very good opportunity for the Japan Seld-Defense Force (JSDF) to improve its humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training.
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