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Interview with GSDF Chief of Staff
Ryoichi Oriki

Ryoichi Oriki

Would you tell us something about your career in the Ground Self-Defense Force?
I joined the Ground Self-Defense Force [GSDF] in 1972 and have experienced duties in almost every field, including eight years with units in Hokkaido, in northern Japan. I worked in recruitment in Osaka for a while. At the time people had a harsher impression of the Self-Defense Forces [SDF] than today, and we had a tough time recruiting personnel. Both youth and senior positions brought their own trials, but each also enabled me to engage in worthwhile duties, and I'm grateful to the organization for having allowed me to gain a wealth of experience.

What experiences have been especially memorable?
When I was the commanding general of the 9th Division in Aomori Prefecture, I sent off subordinates as the third GSDF contingent engaged in reconstruction assistance in Iraq. At the time domestic opinion on the pros and cons of this venture was split. Of course I was concerned over the safety of the personnel, and I did my best to look after their families back home so those in the field wouldn't worry. I'll never forget that when I welcomed them back on their safe return half a year later and saw their shining eyes and fulfilled expressions, I was both amazed and overjoyed at how much they had matured.
    A simple "thank you" from local people is more encouraging than anything else to GSDF personnel. I felt this when inspecting units dispatched to provide disaster relief after the Chuetsu Earthquake in 2004, too.

What are your thoughts on the future shape of the GSDF?
On January 9 this year the Defense Agency made the transition to the Ministry of Defense. In future the GSDF must become an organization equal to the demands of greater readiness. To achieve a "supple and sturdy" GSDF, trust between commanders and units is important. Enhancing trust between people is crucial to overcoming diverse adverse conditions. On various occasions I convey the importance of commanders always seeing things through the eyes of lower-ranked personnel in managing units and of commanders demonstrating passionate commitment to their duties.
    Recent opinion polls indicate rising interest in the SDF. Interest, including critical voices, indicates, I believe, that people have expectations of us. I hope we will continue to respond to the nation?s expectations.