From the Daily Yomiuri comes this article about the Ground Self Defense Forces engineers, from their postwar establishment to their current mission in Haiti. Currently 170 engineers serve in Haiti out of a total SDF complement of 350, operating bulldozers and pneumatic shovels to remove earthquake rubble from stricken areas.

The GSDF engineers originally started out in 1954 as a sort of equivalent of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, undertaking hazardous engineering projects no civilian would want to chance. By the 1990s, the GSDF had gone abroad on its first overseas mission.

A turning point came in the engineering units’ duties when about 1,200 of its troops were sent to Cambodia from 1992-93 on the SDF’s first overseas peacekeeping mission to engage in roadwork and bridge construction. They were also dispatched to East Timor in 2002-04 for peacekeeping operations and during 2003-06 assisted with reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

The article says that among the SDF’s 14 service divisions, GSDF Engineers ranks as third in preference among newly commissioned officers. This is not really all that surprising for a pacifist country. Also, Japan’s never-ending building and infrastructure construction streak probably makes the engineer field a more bankable option when considering one’s post-military career.

The ongoing “yu-ai” fraternity boat mission is apparently limited medical and dental personnel. Engineers would be a natural addition to the yu-ai boats, to do such things as build roads, drill wells, and some light construction. Wait until next year.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 530 post(s) on Japan Security Watch