Four MSDF members in fatal ‘training’ fight face charges

Kyodo News

Investigative reports on four Maritime Self-Defense Force members were sent to prosecutors Wednesday over their alleged involvement in the death of a commando trainee during combat training last year.

A 25-year-old petty officer third class died Sept. 25 after being forced to fight 15 opponents in a row Sept. 9 as part of his training with a special task force at the MSDF’s First Service School in Etajima, Hiroshima Prefecture.

The four MSDF members are a lieutenant commander, 50, who was a leader in the commando unit; a 42-year-old ensign who was an instructor; a petty officer second class, 39, who was an instructor and acted as a referee during the fight; and a petty officer third class, 29, who allegedly landed the fatal blow to the victim.

The names of the victim and his alleged assailants are being withheld at the moment.

They are alleged to have committed professional negligence resulting in death during a training program for the MSDF’s commando-style Special Boarding Unit.

The sailor was in his second year at the training school, and the incident took place just before he was to be transferred to a submarine unit.

Internal investigators have found that the combat training was intended as a form of punishment for the sailor, given that he was to be transferred two days later.

However, some unit members involved in the fatal training told investigators it was meant to be a “celebration,” or “farewell” for the departing trainee, according to investigators.

It is not clear if the victim had trouble with other unit members, but the suspected farewell beating is apparently a well-established ritual at the Special Boarding Unit.

In another case of violent training in May last year, a departing unit member sustained serious injuries after sparring with 16 unit members in a row days before his transfer, the MSDF reported earlier.

Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada has said he believes the victim was made to undergo an excessively punishing exercise. The victim’s father claims he died due to bullying during training.

The trainee fell into a coma after a hard blow to the chin in the 14th fight. He died about two weeks later from acute subdural hematoma.

One of the two instructors acted as a referee and made other participants force the victim to keep getting up and continue fighting.