CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Over the next five weeks, a small force of Japanese soldiers is getting down and dirty with U.S. Marines, learning from them what it means to fight from the sea.

Japan’s eye is on the calendar. In two years, it expects to stand up the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, its first amphibious unit, and it needs a credible force to bolster its national defense capabilities.

About 300 soldiers from Japan’s Western Army Infantry Regiment arrived at Camp Pendleton last week for the annual training exercise— Iron Fist 2016. They are training alongside 500 Marines, mostly members of the Camp Pendleton-based 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, in scenarios that will take them from the large amphibious training base to desert training at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and offshore San Clemente Island.

In recent years, and through annual Iron Fist exercise, Japan’s military has been developing its own tactics, techniques and procedures in amphibious operations, guided by U.S. Marines and their naval counterparts. This year, unlike last year’s exercise, Japanese soldiers will get to sea: They will embark USS Somerset (LPD-25) to get familiar with sea operations and learn to plan and practice amphibious raids and assaults that will take place at San Clemente Island and Camp Pendleton.