Arguments over “going” or “not going” to the Noto Peninsula Earthquake Disaster Dispatch…Unknown “too severe” work conditions of Self-Defense Forces personnel | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Arguments over “going” or “not going” to the Noto Peninsula Earthquake Disaster Dispatch…Unknown “too severe” work conditions of Self-Defense Forces personnel

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A work schedule for a special position within the IDF for one month last year. (Names, numbers, and other identifying information have been partially redacted.

One of the members of the SDF, after finishing his work on the Noto Peninsula and getting three to four hours of sleep, was about to head immediately back to the disaster site. It is said that a superior officer restrains such (mission-minded) SDF personnel and orders them to take a rest.”

A board member of a support group that has regular contact with the SDF revealed the struggles of SDF personnel engaged in disaster relief.

What was happening among SDF personnel immediately after the disaster occurred on January 1 (……)?

Disasters are unpredictable threats that can strike at any time. Earthquakes, in particular, occur suddenly and cause other various disasters such as tsunamis and fires. Because search and rescue operations in disaster areas are a race against time, police, fire departments, and SDF are always on standby to be ready to mobilize quickly in an emergency.

Since 2013, the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) has been organizing “FAST-Force (Fast Force),” an initial response force for disaster relief, etc., for each unit. In addition, there is also a system of “Residuals” for the brigade members (SDF personnel who live in the base). The “Residuals” are standby personnel who make preparations such as loading luggage so that the “Fast Force” personnel can act immediately. Depending on the size of the unit, there are about 100 Fast Forces in a division, which is one of the 10 military formations in Japan.

Fast Forces” are not allowed to go out even on vacations, and “Residuals” are not allowed to go out even on vacations to prepare for “the moment. However, in the SDF, if nothing unexpected happens, they are considered to be “not working” and are treated as if they are on their days off and do not receive benefits. Even so, some “stay behind” members are sometimes asked to help out with snow removal, grass cutting, and other chores as part of their on-duty duties, blurring the line between holidays and work. The borderline between holidays and work is blurred. These inconsistencies were a source of frustration for the members.

The Noto Peninsula earthquake occurred at 16:06 on January 1. The Self-Defense Forces, like the police and fire departments, are allowed to take a long vacation during the New Year’s period, and many SDF personnel were on leave. However, at the first report of the Noto Peninsula earthquake, the initial response force of “Fast Force” first moved in and began aerial reconnaissance and other operations to gather information for the ground forces responsible for rescue operations.

Later, emergency calls were also made to Self-Defense Force personnel on special leave. Some of the SDF personnel worked until the very end of the year and returned to their workplaces on January 2 using same-day plane tickets with high rates at year-end and New Year’s prices, even though they had just returned to Hokkaido on New Year’s Day. Incidentally, they are responsible for their own travel expenses when they are called back from this vacation.

Even though it is their job, it must be mentally tough for SDF personnel to be dispatched to a disaster on New Year’s Day. At a logistics base in western Japan, there was reportedly some trouble among “fast force” members over a New Year’s Day disaster dispatch request. A source with knowledge of the situation revealed the following.

One of them said, ‘I’ll participate in the disaster relief mission, please let me go,’ and the other said, ‘I have a cold, I’m not feeling well, and I’m on vacation. Many of them were in their 20s and 30s, and most of them were army sergeants (a lower rank in the JSDF), but there were also some senior officers who complained that they did not want to go.

Self-Defense Forces personnel conducting search activities near the “Wajima Asaichi” market, which was completely destroyed by a massive fire immediately after the earthquake. The work conditions for SDF personnel who are engaged in frantic search activities amidst the danger of collapsing buildings are harsh.

Some sections of the SDF are free to take both paid holidays and compensatory holidays, but those sections with unit activities such as training, exercises, and disaster relief are usually forced to go out and restrict their activities, and there are few holidays when they can truly spend their time freely. New Year’s holidays were extremely valuable because they were special vacations during which they were allowed to go away and spend long hours with their families.

Now, SDF personnel at the Noto Peninsula site are working on their own time off, and although people generally think that they will probably take a compensatory holiday at some point, in reality, the compensatory holidays are just accumulating. Self-defense forces personnel with special qualifications such as information processing or professional certifications, such as aircraft mechanics, submarine and naval ship crews, pilots, and paramedics, are not allowed to take time off easily, as there are no replacement personnel. One SDF member said, “Every year, my compensatory leave is almost unusable and disappears. I never take a paid holiday,” reveals one Self-Defense Force employee. In fact, unused compensatory leave disappears every year, so the SDF personnel are screaming in an undisclosed manner.

As mentioned above, FRIDAY Digital has obtained a work schedule that is so tight for active SDF personnel that it is no wonder there are arguments over “going” or “not going” to disaster relief missions. The work schedule revealed an astonishing reality.

The “duty roster” at the beginning of this article shows the work schedules of two officers, a sergeant (Mr. A) and a chief (Mr. B), for a certain month last year.

The day marked “1” is the “1st shift” (8:15 to 24:00). The “2 shift” is the “night shift” from 0:00 to 8:15 in the morning. The “1/2″ shift is the shift where you work the second shift after the first shift. Day” is the day shift from 8:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with “-” being a day off.

The following is Mr. A’s work schedule.

Thursday, the 3rd: 8:15 a.m. to 24:00 a.m.
4th (Fri): 0:00-8:15 → 8:15-24:00
Saturday, 5th : 0:00-8:15 → 8:15-24:00
Sunday, 6th:0:00-8:15

If we take the above at face value, we are bound for 72 hours. The “Duties” column states that “2 hours of sleep must be taken on the first shift and 4 hours on the second shift,” and although it appears that rest is ensured, the average amount of sleep is still less than 6 hours, and the work schedule does not allow for 6 hours of sleep in a row.

Ms. A was assigned to this shift every week, and was ordered to complete it four times during this month alone; Ms. B had to work the same 72-hour shift three times a month. Because of this harsh working environment, many of the workers at this workplace have resigned or suffered physical or mental breakdowns during the course of their work.

A former senior staff member of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force revealed, “Self-Defense Force personnel are special government employees.

A former senior staff member of the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) said, “SDF personnel are treated as special national public servants, in other words, the same as members of the Diet. The salaries received by both SDF personnel and Diet members are called “stipends. This means that they are serving the nation. SDF members are appointed by the government to do a job. When they join the JSDF, they are required to take an oath of service, in which they swear to the people that “I pledge to complete my duties and fulfill the trust of the people, without regard for the risks involved in doing so. In other words, they can no longer say, “I don’t want to die,” against their will. At that point, basic human rights practically cease to exist. I believe that the fact that harsh working conditions have been allowed to prevail as a result in the eyes of the general public is due to the fact that this concept is at the very foundation of the system.”

Although not from the Noto earthquake, trench foot is a condition that occurred to Self-Defense Forces personnel who were dispatched to the site of another disaster. The feet initially swollen from prolonged exposure to cold water later became painful and ulcerated, and if left untreated, the tissue would become necrotic.

Is it true that the workers are working under harsh conditions? When we sent a letter of inquiry to the Ministry of Defense, we received the following response.

Regarding the above-mentioned “the actual working conditions in which SDF personnel are detained for 72 hours four times a month,” the Ministry of Defense stated, “We are not aware of the existence of the working conditions shown in one example at this time,

The SDF officers’ working hours are determined by the daily schedule set by the Minister of Defense, and according to the Instruction Concerning Working Hours and Leave of SDF Officers (Defense Agency Instruction No. 65, 1962), the daily working hours are set to be 7 hours and 45 minutes, excluding one-hour rest periods.

In addition, SDF officers are to engage in their duties outside of their working hours whenever they are ordered to do so for actions, training, exercises, or when otherwise required by their duties.

In cases where SDF personnel must be ordered to work long hours for a certain period of time due to the need to manage public affairs, the personnel are to report in advance or after the fact to the department in charge of personnel affairs, etc., to check the status of their working hours, and to keep long hours to the minimum necessary,” he said.

Regarding the possibility that the accuracy of work may be reduced if the work continues to be too demanding, he prefaced his answer with the statement, “It is difficult to answer your question because it is not clear under what specific circumstances the question was asked,” and then added, “If we are forced to have a worker work long hours continuously, we will promptly interview him or her to ascertain his or her mental health, including his or her mental condition, and will then make a temporary report to the department in charge of the work. The response was that the SDF personnel were paying attention to their physical condition.

As for the above-mentioned case in which an SDF member who had just returned to his/her hometown on New Year’s Day returned to his/her workplace on January 2, the SDF member had to bear his/her own travel expenses when he/she was called back, he/she replied, “Travel expenses paid to national public officers are stipulated in the ‘Law Concerning Travel Expenses of National Public Officers, etc.’ and (omitted) returning home is a private matter. (Omitted.) Since the return home is a private trip and not an official business trip, travel expenses are not paid for the cost of traveling between the place of employment and the place of return home.

Regarding the future reform of the way SDF personnel work and the improvement of the “salary system,” he stated that “the government budget for Reiwa FY2024 includes the necessary expenses for expansion, including the establishment of new allowances for SDF personnel,” and added, “We are conducting a survey on the actual conditions of service of SDF personnel and the salary systems of military personnel in other countries, and we will continue to do so based on the results of this survey, We will examine from various angles the ideal salary and allowances for SDF personnel, taking into account the special nature of their missions and work environment.

As mentioned in the opening comment, many SDF personnel who have been engaged in duties to help victims in disaster relief deployments think more about saving the victims than their own physical condition. People around them expect that SDF personnel are serious, take pride in their work, and can overcome difficult situations, and SDF personnel try to respond to this expectation. However, it would be a way to repay their feelings if the SDF members were to pay their share of transportation and other expenses incurred when they give up their holidays or return to the unit unscheduled for work, instead of having to pay their own expenses.

If the organization does not take care of its members, their sense of belonging will decline and people will leave. It is time for the SDF to be more flexible in its work and pay systems, taking into account the feelings of SDF personnel who are screaming in their hearts because they are unable to speak out.

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