Over 150 British Army soldiers have taken part in a major training exercise in Japan over the last two weeks. This included Gurkhas from The First Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles (1 RGR). Exercise Vigilant Isles has taken place annually for the last few years, except during the COVID-19 pandemic. But this year was the first time British troops have been embedded with their Japanese counterparts.
Previously the two nations’ troops did not fully integrate with each other while training on Honshu, the largest and most populated island in Japan.
The Japanese 1st Airborne Brigade’s 3rd Infantry Battalion exercised alongside B (Sari Bair) Company, 1 RGR, and a Signals and Recce company.
At the opening ceremony for the Exercise, Lieutenant Colonel Col Hugo Stanford-Tuck, Commanding Officer, 1 RGR, said, “This exercise is a clear and visible manifestation of the ever-growing partnership between our two nations. Today, standing here, shoulder to shoulder, together, we reaffirm the strength of our shared values, a commitment to peace, security, and prosperity. The recently agreed Hiroshima Accord marks a historic high in the UK-Japan relationship setting the direction for our partnership for the next decade and beyond and reflects our mutual understanding of evolving security challenges in a world where some are seeking to contest and challenge established norms. This joint military exercise is clear evidence that we see these agreements as more than just words on paper. They are an iron expression of our shared determination to work together to address the challenges that confront us both: climate change, maintaining our prosperity, and safeguarding international and regional security to name but a few.”
Lieutenant Colonel Daisuke Ishikawa (3rd Infantry Battalion, Japanese 1st Airborne Brigade) said, “We have been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to conduct bilateral training with the renowned and esteemed Gurkha Battalion, known for its brave soldiers and rich traditions. We recognize the Gurkha Battalion as the world’s strongest force, particularly elite in jungle warfare and guerrilla tactics. Therefore, we would like to facilitate combat-related information sharing and, concurrently, learn from your expertise in battle tactics.”
After the ceremony, soldiers from both nations laid out their weapons and equipment in a bilateral display for the troops to inspect and ask questions.
Over the last few years, Exercise Vigilant Isles has seen British and Japanese troops work together to develop the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF)’s operational capabilities and to promote mutual understanding and trust.