Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Japan Marks End of Iraq Mission

Japanese Air Self-Defense Force and 447th Air Expeditionary Group Airmen pose for one last photo together on the flightline at Sather Air Base on the west side of Baghdad International Airport, Dec. 8, 2008. After the photo was taken, the Japanese C-130 Hercules transport aircraft made its final departure from theater, concluding the Japanese military mission here. (Photo by Master Sgt. Brian Davidson, 447th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs.)

Dispatches from the Front:

BAGHDAD, Dec. 10, 2008 -- The Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force held an end of mission ceremony at Al Faw Palace to commemorate the conclusion of their operations in Iraq with Coalition forces, Dec. 6.

Japan showed its support to the mission with a military force of more than 600 Soldiers supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“The members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force have been with the Coalition forces since the onset of the conflict in March 2003,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, deputy commanding general of operations, Multi-National Corps – Iraq.

The JGSDF was stationed in the southern city of Samawah. The JGSDF units supplied water, rebuilt infrastructures to include schools and roads, provided medical services, and transported humanitarian aid materials for Iraqis in Samawah.

“The Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force has taken part in reconstruction in Iraq for five years,” said Lt. Col. Takenori Kato, Japanese liaison staff officer, Multi-National Force - Iraq.

The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, the aviation segment of Japan's military, provided three C-130s at Ali Al Salem, Kuwait, airlifting humanitarian aid and reconstruction equipment to airports in Iraq. Airlifting activities in Iraq began in March 2004. The JASDF has conducted more than 800 flights, transporting approximately 46,000 passengers and more than 600 tons of cargo in missions between Baghdad and southern Iraq.

“This is a very valuable experience,” said Sgt. Maj. Takeshi Yamada, operations coordinator, Joint Staff Office, MNF-I. “This is a good experience for young Soldiers who will be deploying overseas again.”

Japanese forces have made an impact on Iraq and will be remembered for the reconstruction and humanitarian missions they have conducted in Iraq. “I find that Japan and the other Coalition forces have had an outstanding performance,” said Col. Burl Randolph, deputy C2, MNC-I. “I enjoyed working with them. Iraq would not be the Iraq it is today without the Japanese.”

“Unfortunately, we have to end our mission here,” said Kato. “But we were able to contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq.”

Iraq’s continued security improvement has allowed many Coalition forces to withdraw as Iraqi security forces take over security operations and Iraq asserts itself as a sovereign nation.

“Today is a bittersweet day where we have to say goodbye,” Ferriter said. “But, we say goodbye knowing that [The JASDF] achieved success.”

(Report from a Multi-National Corps – Iraq PAO news release.)

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