SAN DIEGO - Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and soldiers with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force embarked USS Makin Island to participate in the at sea portion of Exercise Iron Fist Feb. 23.

The troops are participating in the bilateral training exercise to strengthen the bond between U.S. and Japanese militaries.

“We have a lot of good training going on and I think each side is going to get something out of it,” said Gunnery Sgt. Bryant A. Berdugo, the unit’s logistics chief, from Bellport, Long Island, N.Y.

Throughout the week and a half at sea period, the Marines, sailors and soldiers will conduct ship-to-shore movements and perform command and control afloat in order to improve their amphibious capabilities.

“I’m so excited to be on ship,” said Sgt. Ken Ogata, an interpreter with the JGSDF. Although it is my second time on ship, it’s very different.”

More than 180 soldiers, with the JGSDF, Western Army Infantry Regiment are participating in the month-long training period.

“What we are looking forward to now, is the ship side and seeing all training elements come together,” Berdugo said. “With upcoming events, we’ll get to show what the Marine Corps forces are capable of.”

While aboard ship, Marines and soldiers will apply current tactics, techniques and procedures to meticulously plan each stage of training.

“I’m excited to take part in the training,” Ogata said. “And I hope the relationship between the Japan and the U.S. will last forever.”