JDF JapanDefenseFocus No.53

Interview with LTC Kawasaki

Interview with LTC Kawasaki

Lieutenant Colonel Machiko Kawasaki was sent to East Timor from February to September in 2002. Later she worked in South Sudan from July 2013 to January 2014 at the headquarters of United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS). LTC Kawasaki shared her experience and insight she gained through her overseas operations.

Q What made you decide to participate in the East Timor mission in 2002 and UNMISS in 2013?

A.From the beginning, I have always been interested in the overseas operations. The unit was sent to East Timor in a relatively large-scale which consisted of approx. 600 to 700 personnel, so it was natural to have some female officers in the unit. After I came back from East Timor, I hoped to be engaged in PKO again if I had a chance. At the same time, the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) was promoting to have more female personnel in the international missions. Then I was offered to participate in UNMISS. PKO is not only a significant contribution to developing countries but also a great opportunity for us to learn about the world.

Q Did you have a chance to cooperate with personnel from other countries?

A.Actually, the mission in East Timor was my first opportunity to work with foreign officers. I came to understand that even though we are from different countries and have different backgrounds, we share the same goal, that is, to do something good for local people.

Q Are there any lessons learned from your experience while being sent for PKO?

A.I had a chance to provide medical assistance to the local people once or twice because of car accidents near the camp. I noticed that what I had to do was to provide sustainable medical care which is possible to be handed over to the local hospitals after we are done with first aid. I learned that we might have the advanced medical technology, but just giving all of them is not necessarily beneficial for the local community.

Q Was there any particular area that you think you contributed as a female officer?

A.There was nothing in particular. This is because I found my working environment comfortable as my gender did not matter. My boss would ask if I would like to take on a task or not, and whether I can do it or not. He asked the same questions to my male colleagues and made a decision to whom he assign the task regardless of gender.

Q What is your next goal going forward?

Coordination with officer from Australia at UNMISS
Coordination with officer from Australia at UNMISS

A.The international operations are not limited to PKO. The MOD is actively engaging in international disaster relief activities and capacity building assistance as well. I would love to be part of those overseas operations through planning or working on site. If I have a chance to work overseas next time, I would like to be engaged in a more responsible position. This is because in the past, while I had a chance to write reports to the force commander, I did not have one to actually make comments during meetings or to report to the commander directly.

Also, since I am currently teaching young SDF personnel here, I would like to stir up their enthusiasm in international cooperation. At the same time, I hope that my experience will create an opportunity for those who are currently not interested in SDF’s overseas operation to understand what the MOD is doing.

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