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NEWS | Dec. 27, 2022

206th Digital Liaison Detachment increases joint readiness during Yama Sakura 83

By Capt. Martin Murphy 412th Theater Engineer Command

The 206th Digital Liaison Detachment (DLD) proved pivotal in the defense of the island of Kyushu during Yama Sakura 83 (YS83).

Yama Sakura is a yearly bilateral command post exercise that has been held between Japan and the United States since 1982. This year’s scenario was a simulated invasion of the Japanese Island of Kyushu.

YS83 consisted of an eight-day exercise held from November 29 through December 12, between the U.S. Army 7th Infantry Division (7th ID) and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Western Army (WA).

Although the Army has fielded small liaison units since World War II, the DLD has existed in its current form since 2009. The DLD provides liaison capabilities between U.S. Army units at the Division level and higher and their Unified Action Partners (UAP). As such, the DLD is a unique Army unit that allows U.S. Army units and their partners to enhance operational effectiveness.

Based out of Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the 206th DLD, also known as “Darkhorse,” leverages Liaison Officers with their respective mission command systems, in Fires, Air Defense, Intelligence, Movement and Maneuver and Sustainment. These liaisons bridge interoperability gaps and provide a bilateral Common Operational Picture (COP) between the supported and host unit.

“The team effectively integrated into the WA warfighting functions, providing liaison capacity to the 7th ID Headquarters,” said Col. Michael Child, 206th DLD Commander. “Through their efforts a bilateral COP was maintained enabling the commanders to make informed decisions as the situation evolved.”

YS83 provided an opportunity for the 7th ID and WA to exercise their wartime functions, build relationships at all levels, and familiarize each other with their respective processes.

Capt. Hitoshi Okawa of the 4th Division WA said, “I believe that (Japan Western Army’s) 4th Division can communicate future operational concepts to (the U.S. Army) 7th Division with coordination with the 206th DLD and take action, accordingly, sharing the latest unit alignment and battle damage assessments.”

Child considered YS83 a complete success, both in increasing the unit’s combat readiness, as well as demonstrating the value it brings to the battlefield.

“I am very proud of everyone,” said Child. “All too often, people are unsure of what a DLD is or what capability we provide. That wasn’t a problem at the end of this exercise. Our fires team, led by Maj. James Hayes, executed 229 fires missions on behalf of the WA, sending missions to the 7th ID, as well as the U.S. Marine Corps Air and Ground Liaison Company (ANGLICO) units for execution. They were the single means in which this action could be executed and were critical to the fight.”

Child was not alone in recognizing this achievement.

During a briefing about DLD capabilities, General Charles A. Flynn, Commanding General of U.S. Army Pacific Command, recognized Hayes with his coin for his leadership in the Fires cell and the impact his team had on the exercise.

Through their efforts at YS 83, the 206th DLD increased their operational readiness, and improved interoperability between 7th ID and the WA. As the 206th DLD credo goes “Darkhorse, Ride Hard!”