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Lt. Col. Neil J. Owens, a Medford, Massachusetts native and the commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force gives insight into the upcoming Artillery Relocation and Training Program. ARTP is the foundation of combat readiness training for 3/12.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Cray

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CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan -- If an artillery round explodes but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

The Marines of 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment hope to test that question as accurately as possible over the course of a quarterly exercise in Miyagi Prefecture, Honshu, Japan, next month.

The exercise, called the Artillery Relocation and Training Program, is intended to ensure that the Marine Corps’ only forward-deployed battalion is ready to aid Japan and other regional U.S. allies if called upon. Simultaneously, it helps artillery in Okinawa adhere to obligations under the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.

Every year, safety measures are taken to ensure a successful ARTP. Safety rules are set in place that satisfy both Marine Corps standards and treaty conditions.

“We only fire during the scheduled hours so we don’t unnecessarily disrupt people out in town,” said Lt. Col. Neil J. Owens, the commanding officer of 3rd Bn., 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “We also are sure to adhere to all the safety procedures and measures that we have in place while we conduct ARTP.”

The Marines and Government of Japan understand the mutual benefits of having artillery assets in Japan. While the Marines take special care to avoid interrupting the flow of daily life during ARTP, Japan provides all funding for the exercise. This arrangement has existed since the Special Action Committee on Okinawa 1996 Agreement.

“ARTP is really the foundation of our combat readiness,” said Lt. Col. Neil J. Owens, the commanding officer of 3rd Bn., 12th Marine Regiment. “It’s the training program under which the Japanese provide us with four live fire exercises annually across five different locations in Japan, and it’s fully funded by the Japanese government. They provide us with the transportation, they are responsible for the range scheduling, and they provide us with liaisons with the local communities as well.”

The upcoming ARTP will contain live fire, small arms fire, and all other types of training that typically occur during a regular artillery live fire exercise. What’s not typical for 3/12, however, is the great opportunity they have to advance community relations.

“They’ll have an opportunity to conduct community relations activities with the local community in the Sendai area,” said Owens. “The Sendai area is a very important area to the Marine Corps because of our involvement with Operation Tomodachi, which is where we assisted with relief efforts after the tsunami that devastated that area.”

The positive relationship between the battalion, Japanese government and local citizens is one of the reasons why ARTP is an enduring exercise.