USS Pioneer (MCM 9) departs Sasebo, Japan to participate in the Mine Countermeasure exercise 2JA, July 14. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Jordan Crouch)

SASEBO, Japan - The forward-deployed mine sweeper USS Pioneer (MCM 9) returned to Sasebo Aug. 1 after completing the U.S.-Japan mine countermeasures exercise (MCMEX) 2JA near Ominato, Japan.

The 10-day exercise tested Pioneer’s ability to search for mine shapes and coordinate with Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force mine sweepers to potentially clear a safe route of navigation.

“It’s a great opportunity, working with the JMSDF,” said Lt. Cmdr. Brett Jasionowski, commanding officer, USS Pioneer. “When it comes to mine warfare they’re second to none.”

The bilateral exercise provided an opportunity to improve both U.S. Navy’s and JMSDF’s tactical capabilities and increase interoperability between the Japanese and U.S. maritime forces.

Many members of the Pioneer crew expressed appreciation for the training opportunity.

“The Mighty Nine (MCM 9) committed to the mission goals and overcame all obstacles set before us,” said Mineman 3rd Class Christian Sims. “The crew camaraderie has increased during our time underway, which is mission critical.”

Pioneer is part of Mine Countermeasure Squadron 7 and Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force, headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan.