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NO.7
 
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SPECIAL FEATURE

ASDF Iraq Reconstruction Assistance Dispatch Air Transport Squadron

Under the Law Concerning Special Measures on Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance in Iraq, the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) began transporting supplies and so forth related to humanitarian reconstruction in March 2004, using its C-130 aircraft. This activity has continued with an amendment of the law in June 2007 even after the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) completed its mission and left Iraq in September 2006, and it is still continuing today. We report on the experience of a member of the 1st Transport Wing stationed at Komaki Air Base. This unit is in charge of transporting supplies and so forth to Iraq from a base in Kuwait.

Light blue color distinguishes the C-130s going to Iraq
Light blue color distinguishes the C-130s going to Iraq

Major Sakai says, "I dedicate a 120 percent effort to ensuring safety."
Major Sakai says, "I dedicate a 120 percent effort to ensuring safety."
Transport of supplies of the United Nations began in 2006. Since then transport operations have been conducted not just to Ali Al Salem Air Base in southern Iraq but also to Baghdad International Airport and Erbil Airfield in the north. This summer, temperatures as hot as 50 degrees Celsius were recorded. It is said that when the temperature goes up that far above normal body temperature, the heat feels not just hot but painful.
    Major Tomoyuki Sakai, a C-130 captain who has just returned to Japan from his second assignment to Iraq, said, "To Erbil and back, completion of the flight takes about half a day starting from the flight preparations. The extreme heat made the flights very arduous with no place to get relief, and I lost 2.5 kilograms on just one flight. Seeing the Iraqi mission as a duty, we did the best we could. Thanks to the high level of training we received in Japan, we were able to perform as usual even in the different environment." Referring to the care he took for his crew, he continued, "Doing the job from my position as captain, I was constantly aware of my grave responsibility for my crew as well as passengers flying along with me. Since the mental stability of the crew is indispensable for performing a mission, I made a point of checking up promptly on them even at times apart from our working time. I put a 120 percent effort into getting everyone back safely. That led us to accomplish our missions."
    Komaki Air Base of the 1st Air Transport Wing is the only place in Japan where C-130s are stationed. For this reason, there are personnel on the base who have been sent to Iraq as many as four times. Major Sakai said that his third assignment to Iraq was decided on shortly after he returned from his second. "My family," he says with a smile, "are understanding. My wife said to me, 'Who would go if you didn't go?' We exchanged e-mail every two days while I was in Kuwait. In fact, we might communicate even better than when I'm in Japan.”
 

Fields Notes

The Kido Eisei Unit (ICU-style Module)
The Kido Eisei Unit (ICU-style Module)

The Kido Eisei Unit (ICU-style Module)
Komaki Air Base was opened in 1959. Currently it shares the runway of Nagoya Airport, which is under the jurisdiction of Aichi Prefecture, and undertakes such activities as air transport, training of air traffic controllers, maintenance of rescue planes, and training of crew. It is in charge of important tasks in addition to national defense, including disaster relief and international contributions. It is the only base where C-130s, which are key transport planes of the ASDF, are stationed.
    In May this year a Kido Eisei Unit (ICU-style Module), i.e., a "flying intensive care unit," was deployed to the Air Mobile Medical Unit at Komaki. It is a container-like unit loaded on a C-130 with walls that block noise and electromagnetic waves. It is the first unit in the world equipped with such medical instruments as ultrasonic diagnostic apparatus and artificial respirators. The medical unit was organized in October 2006 with the objective of elevating the rate of survival in large-scale natural disasters and other such calamities. It picks up severely injured people who are unable to receive sufficient treatment where they are and transports them to hospitals distant from there for more sophisticated care.