Why The Self-Defense Forces Couldn’t Deploy Simultaneously to the Disaster Area | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Why The Self-Defense Forces Couldn’t Deploy Simultaneously to the Disaster Area

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Self-defense officers climb up to the landslide site to check the situation. After this, heavy machinery was used to “open up the road.

Self-Defense Force officers working in the Noto Peninsula earthquake disaster relief efforts. They have been mobilized as a joint task force across the boundaries of land, sea, and air, and about 10,000 of them are engaged in this disaster relief mission. What are they doing in the disaster-stricken areas? Some people have said, Why don’t we just dispatch the Self-Defense Forces as soon as possible? The reason for this is that the first priority is to assess the situation on the ground and then determine how much manpower and equipment will be required.


On the evening of January 1, when the earthquake struck, two fighter jets from Chitose Air Base in Hokkaido were dispatched by the Self-Defense Forces to conduct a reconnaissance mission. Later, at 16:45, the Governor of Ishikawa Prefecture requested the GSDF to dispatch disaster relief personnel, and the request was immediately accepted. A total of 18 aircraft, including eight helicopters from various GSDF garrisons, seven fighters and other aircraft from the Air SDF, and three from the Maritime SDF, conducted reconnaissance activities over the disaster-stricken area. Based on the information from the reconnaissance flights, helicopter units were first organized to transport personnel to the affected areas, and then naval vessels were dispatched from the coasts where they could reach the shore. 

When the author arrived at the site, many roads were cut off by landslides, forcing us to take detours. However, the roads that were previously impassable became passable day by day, and Self-Defense Forces personnel were working day and night to clear the roads using heavy equipment. In many cases, work was gradually taken over by private construction companies and moved to work on other landslide sites.

Rescue helicopters were also used every day, landing where possible, but when not possible, rescue workers descended from the sky and hoisted rescuers up to the ground. Although helicopters have the image of being able to land anywhere, the direction of the wind and other weather conditions, as well as the environment, including land and buildings, can greatly affect the helicopter’s ability to land, so the helicopters take every precaution when landing.

The SDF also works with police, fire departments, and other agencies to rescue people and transport emergency patients, transcending the boundaries of organizational structures.

Political parties and groups that normally criticize the SDF insist that the SDF be deployed quickly only at times like this, but deploying the SDF without knowing the situation on the ground will only cause confusion and unnecessary accidents. The Self-Defense Forces are always acting calmly to protect Japanese lives and property.

Residents were being dropped off at a temporary heliport from isolated villages and transported to evacuation centers again by another helicopter. The rescued victims were still in their clothes, but they looked relieved.
The Wajima Marintown Stadium was functioning as a temporary heliport.
Crews providing food assistance. Survivors said they were very happy to receive hot meals.
At the gymnasium where relief supplies were being stored, vehicles were constantly carrying supplies.
Stickers on the helmets of the team members in support of the disaster area.
A CH-47J helicopter of the Ground Self-Defense Force was on an emergency patient transport mission in Suzu City.
  • Photography, Reporting, and Writing Takuma Arimura

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