Female Reserve Candidates take a lunch break with their instructor during training

Female Reserve Candidates take a lunch break with their instructor during training (Source: MoD)

Kanaroko, a publication in Kanagawa Prefecture, discusses the rise in post-3/11 interest in the Self-Defense Force Reserves, a small portion of which are taken from the general civilian population. A rough translation is provided below:

A ‘Narrow Gate’ for SDF Reserve Candidates, Increase in Applicants Following Disaster

Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, entry to the Self-Defense Force Reserve Candidates, rookie Self-Defense Force service members taken from the civilian population, has become a hard-to-enter ‘narrow gate’. The Kanagawa Provincial Cooperation Headquarters, operating within Kanagawa Prefecture, customarily recruits twice a year, but this year has received a year’s worth of applications within its first recruiting period. For those who had already completed the training, the recent disaster saw the first disaster call-up since the SDF’s foundation, seemingly another driving force behind the increased interest.

A 22-year old female part-time worker from Sagamihara is currently participating in the reservist basic training course at GSDF Camp Takeyama in Yokosuka.

While at studying at high school, seeing the SDF engaging in disaster relief on TV after the Niigata Earthquake heightened her interest. On the earthquake this March, she was forced to consider what she could do to help, and decided to train to be a reservist. “I want to be helpful if I’m ever needed in the future.”

The quota for the number of Self-Defense Reservist Candidates for this financial year is 1,400 people. In Kanagawa, the number of applicants this time round was 270 people, from which 67 passed. The passing ratio of 4:1 was a ‘narrow gate’ indeed.

In the Ground Self-Defense Force Eastern Army, covering 10 prefectures including Kanagawa, the training is conducted by the Eastern Army Combined Brigade based at Camp Takeyama. The current group includes female participants between 20-30-years old. The trainees mostly feel that the disaster made them consider what they could do to help. One of the instructors said, “It is surprising how highly motivated the trainees are.”

However, it is not easy for those that complete the training program following their return to their day jobs. SDF Reservists must train for 50 days every 3 years. “In an average year, less than half can reach the very end of the course.”

In the areas struck by the recent disaster, 441 reservists were called up to support logistical functions on bases following the deployment of regular SDF units.

This is excellent news for the SDF, and presumably we will see an increase in applications to the regular forces and National Defense Academy this coming April, when recruitment finishes up. Increased competition should make for better quality recruits, the only question is whether this trend will have any staying power.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
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