200 members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces 6th Division, based in Yamagata Prefecture, departed for Iraq yesterday. They will be followed by several hundred more over the next few weeks. The members of the 6th Division will replace members of the 9th Division, based in Aomori Prefecture, currently on the ground in Samawah.
As usual, the news stations here interviewed some of the soldiers and their family members. The troops this time seemed much more relaxed than the members of the first deployment last December. One man from Hokkaido (Japan's Alaska) joked that deploying to Iraq was probably about as dangerous as visiting some parts of Tokyo. The family members waving goodbye also seemed much more relaxed. There were a lot more smiles all around.
The Japanese troops are primarily engaged in rebuilding and assisting in Iraqi hospitals. As such, they are unlikely to face combat. There have been rockets launched at their camp in Samawah, but that has been about the extent of violence they've faced, as far as I know.
This is the fourth SDF deployment to Iraq, with each deployment lasting about three months. The members of the 6th Division are scheduled to stay until February.
No Japanese troops have been killed in Iraq, although two diplomats were killed in an ambush before the SDF deployed.
Japanese Opposition Parties Strike
Apparently, one or more opposition parties have introduced a bill to bring the troops home at the end of their current deployment schedule in December. Prime Minister Koizumi's government had already promised to extend their stay by another year. The ruling LDP coalition will probably squelch this, but we'll see.
Happy 50th, SDF!
This year the SDF is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Here are some links to SDF photos.
(Click on the thumbnails for enlarged photos.)
The following links show SDF equipment used over the last 50 years.
Congratulations to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces on their 50th, and thank you!
(*This update was compiled from both English and Japanese language media. Before you believe everything I write from my wanderings through the Japanese media, it's best to read my language disclaimer. I do my best, but my Japanese is far from perfect . . . If you find an error, please let me know. Thanks!)