PACIFIC OCEAN (Oct. 31, 2011) Rear Adm. John Haley, commander of Carrier Strike Group 5 and Task Force 70, right, discusses Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX) 2011 with Vice Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, commander in chief, Self-Defense Fleet, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF), on the Flag bridge aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Pittman)

PACIFIC OCEAN - The aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) hosted Vice Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, commander in chief, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and Vice Adm. Scott Swift, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Oct. 31 for part of Annual Exercise (AE) 2011.

Kawano, the exercise commander, arrived aboard George Washington with Swift to speak with the ship's senior leadership, to observe how the U.S. Navy executes tactical operations and see Japanese and U.S. Sailors working together.

"Our top fleet leader should know what we are doing with the U.S. Navy," said Japanese Rear Adm. Fumiyuki Kitagawa, commander, Escort Flotilla 3 and a liaison between the U.S. Navy and JMSDF. "He should see the cooperation between Japanese and U.S. Sailors; men and women working together in the same manner, same spirit and same level of professionalism."

Kawano and Swift spoke with Rear Adm. J.R. Haley, commander, Task Force 70 and Capt. David A. Lausman, George Washington's commanding officer about AE 11's progress, discussing diverse operations and increased interoperability.

"Vice Adm. Kawano is in charge of AE 11 so I'm coming out here with him to let him see how we do command and control and how we execute tactical operations," said Swift.

Fourteen ships, 70 aircraft and 9,000 service members are participating in AE 11 on the U.S. side alone, making AE 11 the biggest to date.

"The JMSDF are directing the exercise; they are making decisions about the priorities, the tactics, the techniques and procedures used," said Swift.

"This shapes the entire exercise. This sets the pace that the exercise continues at and ensures that the training objectives from the flag level all the way down to the deckplates are achieved."

Kawano and Swift visited the JMSDF helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH 181), allowing Swift to see how the Japanese conduct their operations during AE 11.

"I wouldn't say it's completely different because the concepts are the same, but the structure, the setup and the physical layout of how they manage command and control over naval operations is different than the way we do it," said Swift. "This has been a great opportunity to spend a few hours on Hyuga to walk through their command and control process."

Besides studying each other's war naval tactics, Kawano and Swift's joint visit to George Washington had another implication, said Lausman.

"To have both admirals on this ship during the joint exercise that we do together each year sends a strong message for both militaries in both countries about how we operate together," said Lausman. "The high degree of interoperability that we have bodes well for us to do great things, regardless of the mission, as we exercise the most important part of our relationship; command and control structure, planning and problem solving together."

In addition to George Washington, other U.S. ships participating in AE11 include the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63), the guided-missile destroyers USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS Dewey (DDG 98), USS Lassen (DDG 82), USS Stethem (DDG 63) and USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108). Other ships include the amphibious ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46), mine countermeasure ships USS Guardian (MCM 5) and USS Patriot (MCM 7); as well as and U.S. submarines, and maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.

AE11 underscores the strength of the close, long-standing relationship the United States has with Japan and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force. It further demonstrates the U.S.' continuing commitment to deepen our strong ties of mutual support and friendship.