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Interview with Ground Staff Office Chief of Staff Tsutomu Mori

Tsutomu Mori
Tsutomu Mori

Would you tell us something about your career in the Ground Self-Defense Force?
I'm often told that I've had an unusual career trajectory within the Ground Self-Defense Force [GSDF]. I've served in all five armies of the GSDF, from platoon leader to army commanding general. I've also worked in almost every department of the Ground Staff Office [GSO]. Many of these assignments have been brief, but altogether they've enabled me to see every aspect of the GSDF. Working alongside personnel in the field and getting to know local people wherever I've been posted have been invaluable experiences.
    One of my most unforgettable tasks was helping plan the 1992 peacekeeping operation [PKO] in Cambodia. And as GSO chief, I've been responsible for sending off GSDF units engaged in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in Iraq from the second contingent onward, a task I've approached with greater resolve than ever before.

Would you talk about the Cambodia and Iraq missions?
I was tense about the Cambodia PKO, since it was the first overseas dispatch of GSDF personnel and we knew we mustn't fail. I approached the task with the utmost care. In the light of GSDF involvement in subsequent PKOs in Mozambique, the Golan Heights, and East Timor, the Cambodia PKO marked a turning point, raising the GSDF to a new stage.
    Earlier overseas activities weren't without danger, but our activities in Iraq have involved a totally different level of tension. Fortunately, so far we've had no casualties, and as a member of the GSDF I'm thankful for that.
    The reason the GSDF give a favorable impression when serving overseas is rigorous attention to seeing things through the eyes of the local people. This may have something to do with the awareness on the part of the Self-Defense Forces [SDF] of the importance of gaining public understanding that has prevailed ever since their formation 50 years ago?a wish that's now so deeply ingrained in the SDF that it's part of their DNA. Overseas activities attract a great deal of media attention, and I think this has helped deepen public understanding of the GSDF.

What are your thoughts on the future of the GSDF?
In soccer terms, the role of the GSDF is like that of goalkeeper. Without this, all is lost. At the same time, the GSDF needs the capabilities of an all-round player, good at passing and scoring goals as well. No matter how much high-tech equipment we have, in the end it comes down to hand-to-hand combat. Since the GSDF is made up of people, my ultimate aim is to build an organization that values people. Managing the GSDF, with its five commanding generals of armies, within the new joint operations system is no easy task, but I'm determined to ensure a successful transition.