The 340th Chemical Company recently returned from an historic nine-month deployment to Japan, marking the first time since World War II that a reserve chemical company reported for duty in the country.
“Our time in Japan was very rewarding,” said Capt. Scott Severance, company commander. “I would say that we played a part in the healing process of [the] former conflict with that country in that we were building trust and instilling confidence in our abilities to be a formidable ally.”
Assigned to U.S. Army Aviation Battalion-Japan, operating out of Naval Air Facility Atsugi, the 340th’s primary mission was to enhance the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force’s chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological units’ response capabilities in support of Orient Shield. They also helped strengthen alliances with bilateral partners.
Severance said Japan faces “real near-peer threats” and the 340th Chemical Company was “part of the deterrence package.” However, Japanese forces, he said, are “more than capable” of defending their country.
“But as much as we rely on them to be a ‘first responder’ to any threat in the region, we want them to rely on us to do the same,” Severance said. “It’s a symbiotic relationship coupled with professional and highly-trained individuals on both sides who were able to enmesh as a team and provide even better capabilities to fill each other’s gaps.”
Although the 340th is based out of Houston, the mission’s 150-plus citizen soldiers heralded from across the country and around the world.
The 340th had to overcome unprecedented obstacles during deployment — from a once-in-a-century pandemic and numerous government quarantine policies to infrastructure challenges — but worked tirelessly to accomplish the mission, according to Severance.
“On top of dealing with COVID-19, about three-fourths of the company were essentially brand-new soldiers who were never deployed before and now heading to conduct a mission in an environment they’d never experienced,” he said. “We trained heavily when the military itself was kind of shut down — compacting roughly two years of training into nine months — and quite a few things had to be done virtually to get ready for this deployment.”
A large amount of equipment and vehicles also were shipped overseas, and their barracks in Japan had to be renovated.
“Lines of communication and transportation had not been set up, so we had to do all of that while we were all there,” Severance said.
Because of the 340th’s dedication to the mission — together with support and guidance from leaders of U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan and United States Army, Japan — the company received the Maj. Gen. William L. Sibert Award for Excellence, making them the best chemical company in the Army Reserve in 2021.
Severance said he sees the 340th as becoming an exemplary unit that can train other units.
“We did more than 10 high-profile missions that were created at the company level, which had never really been done before on the chemical side,” he said. “During that time, we had the ability to essentially increase interoperability with sister services, as well as host nation forces. What that means is that we can essentially prepare other units to become proficient in future deployments.”