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By Sgt. Jeff Daniel, 211th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
As a crackle echoes through the sun-drenched valley, a strong male voice can be heard. “Hit.” Another crack. “Miss.” Another three rounds land, a voice with a strong Japanese accent asks, “how many targets did we hit?” The male voice, heavy with an upper midwest inflection, answers through the sound system, “three hits, two misses.”
The echoed scores mark the end of the first round of firing in a friendly sniper competition between the U.S and Japanese armies during Rising Thunder 19 at the Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Washington, Sept. 1, 2019. In the spirit of partnership, a little competition was reintroduced into the joint training between the Illinois National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Japan’s 25th Infantry Regiment troops.
Rising Thunder is an annual Yakima Training Center exercise, this year featuring the Illinois Army National Guard's 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and 108th Sustainment Brigade, and Japan's 25th Infantry Regiment.
Staff Sgt. Jeremie Moon, from West Frankfort, Illinois, with 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment, noted both sniper teams, continuously trained at the site to collect data for firing more accurately based on wind, temperature, and humidity.
For today's competition, the two teams sent one sniper each to the top floor of a three-story building. Four hundred and fifty meters away, a model village housed their targets.
“We would shoot a target, then the Japanese would shoot and we would alternate targets until all the targets were down,” Moon said. “Working as a team, figuring our strengths and weaknesses, and the same with the 25th Infantry Regiment,” said Moon. “They work very similar. They have a spotter, Shooters make their marks very similarly. They have a set goal for each day. They work very well together and they communicate very well together.”
Sgt. 1st Class Yukiro Matsuda from the 25th Inf. Reg. sniper team shares Moon's passion for cooperation and learning from each other.
“I appreciate having such an opportunity to shoot long from a building,” said Matsuda. “It is not easy to get the same opportunity in Japan.”
Today's competition was one of many joint training exercises throughout the two-week exercise. The final live-fire iteration will combine the talents from both sniper teams. But until that event takes place, both teams practice and train together, and throw in a friendly competition here and there.
“Today we learned a lot and gained a good relationship with our counterpart,” said Moon.