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Feature Story

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Japan's mission of mercy to Pakistan

Members from the JGSDF and local villagers help off-load food from a CH-47JA

Japan Ministry of Defense

Members from the JGSDF and local villagers help off-load food from a CH-47JA used in the August 2010 flood-relief efforts in Pakistan.

On a mission of mercy, more than 200 members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) answered a distress call from the people of Pakistan. Last August, deadly floods ravaged villages in the state of Punjab and left thousands of people without food, water and adequate medical care.

“It was the JGSDF that quickly responded in a global relief mission to deliver much-needed aid,” said Lt. Col. Mikihiko Komatsu, JGSDF vice commander, 1st Transport Helicopter Group. “We deployed three CH-47JA and three UH-1 helicopters. For many from the Japanese force, the three-month-long deployment was their first international humanitarian mission.”

“We were not used to the local food, language and culture,” said Lt. Col. Kenji Kato, JGSDF commander, 104th Aviation Squadron. “However, we adapted ourselves to their way of life which was appreciated by our hosts.”

The CH-47JA, designed by Boeing and built for Japan by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Inc. (KHI), was uniquely suited for the job. Its large cargo area and heavy-lift capabilities enabled tons of much-needed food and supplies to be delivered to where it was needed most: in the heart of villages overtaken by flood waters.

"We operated for several weeks in hot, humid, sandy conditions. During our missions, we did not have to cancel one flight due to malfunction of the aircraft. We affirmed the reliability of the CH-47JA."
Villagers wave good-bye after a delivery of life-sustaining, high-energy food bars and water

Japan Ministry of Defense

JGSDF members say everywhere they traveled they were met with a warm welcome from villagers who received life-saving supplies from the team. Here, villagers wave good-bye after a delivery of life-sustaining, high-energy food bars and water.

The CH-47JA’s durability was also tested.

“We operated for several weeks in hot, humid, sandy conditions,” said Capt. Mitsuhiro Kondo, JGSDF Helicopter Maintenance section chief for the 103rd Aviation Squadron. “During our missions, we did not have to cancel one flight due to malfunction of the aircraft. We affirmed the reliability of the CH-47JA.”

Boeing Defense, Space & Security Vice President of Business Development in Japan Jim Armington said he is "proud that the JGSDF and the CH-47 logged another milestone in this critical mission," adding that the working relationship between Boeing and Japanese industry has been a long and gratifying one.

“KHI started to build the CH-47J/JA under licensed production in 1984,” said Armington. “Ever since then, KHI has produced more than 85 CH-47J/JAs and supported the Japan Self-Defense Forces’ humanitarian missions. The CH-47 remains one of the most popular military helicopters in Japan."

More than 200 members of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force’s Pakistan International Emergency Rescue team deployed to assist the flood victims in Pakistan for a three-month deployment

Japan Ministry of Defense

More than 200 members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Pakistan International Emergency Rescue team deployed to assist the flood victims in Pakistan for a three-month deployment from August through October 2010.

The vivid images of what the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force saw during its humanitarian efforts were carried back to Japan and shared with fellow JGSDF members and families. But for Maj. Akihiko Gaman, JGSDF Flight section chief, 103rd Aviation Squadron, none are more poignant than those of the children of Pakistan.

“This was my second overseas disaster relief mission following the Sumatran earthquake in western Indonesia in September 2009,” Gaman said. “Something impressive in common with Sumatra and Pakistan is that the children are strong and hopeful. When they spotted us, they came running toward us and when we finished unloading the supplies, they all waved good-bye to us.”