PHILIPPINE SEA (Nov. 2, 2011) The amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) pulls alongside the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force oiler JS Hamana (AOE 424) for a replenishment at sea during Annual Exercise 2011. (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign David Copeland)

PHILIPPINE SEA - Staff members from Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Escort Flotilla Division 11 and Task Force 76 (CTF 76) are embarked in USS Tortuga (LSD 46) to coordinate and direct amphibious operations during Annual Exercise 2011 (AE 11).

AE 11 focuses on practicing and evaluating coordination procedures and interoperability elements required for responding to the defense of Japan, to a regional crisis or contingency situation in the Asia-Pacific region. Exercises such as this also help develop bi-lateral confidences and continue to strengthen working relationships between the JMSDF and U.S. Navy.

"We have been involved in Annual Exercise for many years, and it continues to deepen and strengthen relations between our two countries," said JMSDF Capt. Yuki Sekiguchi, Commodore of Escort Flotilla Division 11. Capt. Sekiguchi also leads the JMSDF liaison group that embarked Tortuga.

JMSDF liaison officers are embarked as part of a larger exchange designed to ease coordination efforts between the JMSDF and U.S. Navy during the exercise. CTF 76 also has liaison officers aboard JS Chokai (DDG 176) for the duration of AE 11.

"The liaison officers we exchange provide valuable understanding to combined operations," said Cmdr. Ed Thompson, deputy chief of staff for CTF 76. "Even with all of our sophisticated data and communication systems, having JMSDF officers onboard to help coordinate and direct combined operations is vital to a successful exercise."