Opening Ceremonies for Operation Rising Thunder Begin - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Opening Ceremonies for Operation Rising Thunder Begin

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YAKIMA, Wash. -- For 20 years, Japanese forces have traveled to Yakima to use the wide expanses of the Yakima Training Facility. But under the surface, this operation teaches soldiers more about communication than military tactics.

"You're interacting with a foreign country learning how they do things," Lt. Col. Douglas Walter says. "Understanding cultural differences and how you deal with those cultural differences is an incredible opportunity"

The differences between the two forces are obvious, yet both give similar commands, know how to salute, and have strong feelings toward the operation.

"Very excited," Col. Hamamoto Hirofumi exclaims through an interpreter.

"What's the same though is the professionalism between soldiers even though we're from different countries," Major General Stephen Lanza says. "There is a compatibility. There's a partnership; a professionalism that exists between soldiers of all nations."

Over the span of three weeks nearly eight-hundred Japanese and American soldiers will live in barracks right next to each other, interacting on a daily basis.

"I believe the friendship between U.S. and Japanese Armies are accumulating now," Major General Omori Takeyoshi says.

While the two allies continue the operation every year for military training, they learn something much deeper than that. They learn about the value of cooperation.

For the next three weeks, Japanese and U.S. forces will conduct military training exercises regularly including the first ever joint Cobra Helicopter operation.

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