Twenty-six ships from the U.S. Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, including ships from the George Washington Strike Group, steam together in the East China Sea Nov. 16 after the conclusion of exercise Keen Sword. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jennifer A. Villalovos)

PHILIPPINE SEA - The George Washington Carrier Strike Group, centered around the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) , and the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) concluded the joint-bilateral exercise Keen Sword 2013, Nov. 16.

The exercise, which began Nov. 5, consisted of numerous evolutions with the strike group, enabling the United States and Japan to train in coordination procedures and heighten interoperability that is required to effectively defend or respond to a crisis in Japan and the Asia-Pacific region.

"The U.S. Navy has operated side-by-side with the [Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force] for many years, and because of the interoperability we share, both of us are a more effective warfighting force," said Capt. G.J. Fenton, George Washington's commanding officer. "The alliance has served as the foundation of our security and prosperity for the past half century, and we are committed to ensuring that it continues to be effective in meeting the challenges of the 21st century."

George Washington hosted several members of the JSDF during the exercise to allow them to bear witness to a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier's operational capabilities. Visitors included Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki, chief of staff, Japan Joint Staff, and the JSDF's exercise director; JMSDF Vice Adm. Yasushi Matsushita, commander in chief, Japan's Self Defense Fleet; and Japan Ground Self Defense Force Lt. Gen. Toshihio Miyashita, commanding general, Western Army.

"In order for our partnership to work, it is vital that the JSDF know our capabilities," said Fenton. "By allowing these distinguished visitors access to our ship, it symbolizes the unwavering faith and trust we have in our partners. We could not have performed as well as we did during Keen Sword without the complete trust of the JSDF."

Keen Sword involved joint U.S. Forces and JSDF forces from all components of both militaries training to conduct bilateral operations. Significant training events included maritime operations, base security operations, integrated air and missile defense, search and rescue, close air support and live-fire training. George Washington Sailors conducted numerous operations with embarked JSDF members, including formation flying, simulated dog-fighting and weapons system testing.

"I could not be more pleased with the interaction between my Sailors and the embarked JSDF members, both on a professional and personal level," said Fenton. "The fact is that they are the reason that the alliance between our two nations exists at all. If we don't have synchronicity at the individual level, we won't have any sort of synchronicity on the operational level. That friendship is vital to our continuing alliance."

Through bilateral exercises such as Keen Sword, Japan and the United States demonstrate enduring commitment to provide for the defense of Japan, U.S. interests, and to sustain regional peace and stability.

George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region.