In this file photo, amphibious assault vehicles depart USS Comstock (LSD 45) during a previous exercise in U.S. 7th Fleet. (USMC/Sgt. Melissa Wenger)

PACIFIC OCEAN - The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based out of San Diego and Camp Pendleton, Calif., are participating in exercise Keen Sword 17, Nov. 4-11.

KS17 is a bilateral exercise between Japan Self-Defense Forces and U.S. forces designed to increase combat readiness, communication and coordination between the two militaries to effectively and mutually respond to the defense of Japan, or to a crisis or contingency situation in the region.

“The U.S.-Japan alliance remains strong and productive for both countries’ militaries,” said Col. Clay C. Tipton, commanding officer, 11th MEU. “Earlier this year the Marines and Sailors of the 11th MEU and USS Somerset (LPD 25) conducted bilateral amphibious operations with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force on the shores of California during Exercise Iron Fist 16, and now we are honored to be here supporting our allies in Keen Sword 17.”

The MKI ARG/11th MEU units supporting KS17 are the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45); Combat Logistics Detachment 113, Combat Logistics Battalion 11; and Company B, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, which includes an Amphibious Assault Vehicle Platoon and Combined Anti-Armor Team. These units will be training on Guam and off the shore of Tinian.

The KS17 culminating event is a bilateral amphibious landing on Tinian using combat rubber raiding crafts and helicopters launching from the JDS Osumi (LST 4001). Comstock will host JSDF observers and support this operation with an Amphibious Assault Vehicle show of force off the Tinian coast.

As a precursor to the main amphibious landing, 11th MEU units will conduct sustainment training on Guam that will act as shaping operations for the Japanese/U.S. bilateral amphibious landing on Tinian. While the 11th MEU units are operating independently of JSDF, they are supporting the overall Japan-U.S. military operation, and providing an opportunity for higher headquarters to track both U.S. and Japanese forces operating over a large battle space.

The MKI ARG/11th MEU provides senior U.S. military leadership and coalition partners with a flexible force which can rapidly respond to contingencies and crises within a region. With ships, aircraft, troops, and logistical equipment, the ARG/MEU is a self-contained and self-sustained task force capable of conducting everything from combat operations to providing humanitarian assistance.

The MKI ARG/11th MEU arrived in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) late October. While in the 7th Fleet AOR, the MKI ARG/11th MEU will conduct a series of theater security cooperation engagements, like KS17, to strengthen ties and increase communication and coordination with allies and partners in the region. In addition to Comstock, the MKI ARG includes the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25).

The 11th MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force comprised of a ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines; an aviation combat element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced); a combat logistics element, Combat Logistics Battalion 11; and a command element.