U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan supports Special Operations Forces in Ryukyu Islands

U.S. Army Aviation Battalion-Japan supports Special Operations Forces conducting High Altitude-Low Opening (HALO) operations into the Ryukyu Island chain on Oct. 27, during Orient Shield 21-1. Special Operations Forces and Aviation are key capabilities of multi-domain operations.
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U.S. Special Operations Forces members jump from UH-60L Black Hawk of the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion-Japan for High Altitude-Low Opening (HALO) training (Picture source : Twitter account of U.S. Army Japan)

Orient Shield is an annual training exercise executed in Japan between the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces (JGSDF) and United States Army. Since 1985, it has focused on development and refinement of systems and tactics in order to enhance bilateral tactical planning, coordination, and interoperability. The exercise is designed to enhance bilateral combat effectiveness at the battalion and brigade levels while strengthening military-to-military relationships and demonstrating American commitment to support regional security interests. Rotating between JGSDF divisions of the five Regional Armies, Orient Shield leverages the unique capabilities of the training units to provide for ever-increasing tactical complexity and realism. The ongoing tension around North Korea's nuclear program has added an additional layer of importance to the annual exercise.

Originally executed as a one week platoon-level Field Training Exercise (FTX), Orient Shield has evolved into a two week battalion-level FTX, brigade-level computer assisted Command Post Exercise (CPX), and company-level Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFEX). In 2015, Orient Shield was added to Pacific Pathways, a United States Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiative to improve readiness and the scope and quality of regional engagements. In 2018, the 40th Infantry Division from California National Guard and 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) from the Indiana National Guard became the first Total Force partners to participate in the exercise.

The 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) (1st SFG) (A) is a unit of the Special Forces regiment of the United States Army. It is designed to deploy and execute nine doctrinal missions throughout the Indo-Pacific Command area of operations: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, direct action, counter-insurgency, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, information operations, counterproliferation of weapon of mass destruction, and security force assistance. It was among the first groups of the Special Forces to be officially formed. The group is responsible for operations in the Pacific. Currently, the First Battalion is stationed at Okinawa while the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and Group Support Battalions are stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

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Organic to the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan are UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters and UC-35 fixed-wing aircraft (Picture source : Twitter account of U.S. Army Japan)

U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan conducts general-support operations throughout the U.S. Army Pacific area of responsibility to enable U.S. Army Japan operations and is prepared to deploy and conduct generalsupport aviation operations in support of USARJ contingency operations. It is a Table of Distribution and Allowances (TDA) unit. It comprises two companies and one attached detachment within the organization: Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), A Company, and a fixed wing detachment. Organic to the unit are UH-60L helicopters and UC-35 fixed-wing aircraft (attached) in support of U.S. Army Japan (USARJ).
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