On Monday, Marines will begin a month-long exercise in Southern California with Jan. 26, Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force. The event is designed to test the Japan's command and control capabilities while improving one of the strongest military relationships in the Pacific.

The annual exercise, dubbed Iron Fist, involves just over 250 Japanese troops. Ground Self-Defense Force members About 700 Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 13 and as well as 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines — both based at Camp Pendleton, California — will also participate. The exercise doesn't have a dedicated air combat element, but will involve aircraft from nearby units, said 2nd Lt. Francheska Soto, a spokeswoman for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said.

This year Japan will have its biggest and most-advanced command and control presence in exercise since Iron Fist started 10 years ago, Soto said.

"In the past, the Japanese haven't been able to match the command and control portion, so they used the Marine Corps portion and participated in the offshooting exercise. But this year they're matching the Marine Corps control center," she said.

They'll be more involved in the planning and execution of the exercises events than in previous years, she said.

By the time Iron Fist concludes on Feb. 27, the two forces will participate in amphibious reconnaissance missions, advanced marksmanship drills, fire support exercises and forward observer training. Japan is particularly interested in Skysat, a system that puts communication transmission devices aloft via balloon, Soto said.

"It provides extensive range," she said.

The event will use facilities at Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California; and San Clemente Island.

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