SDF struggling to attract enough reservists

JIJI

The number of civilians registered as reservists with the Self-Defense Forces — those who would take on roles as SDF personnel in emergency situations — is dwindling, mainly due to the difficulty of balancing training with civilian careers, a senior military official has said.

This year marks the 60th anniversary since the launch of the reservist system, which was created alongside the main force in 1954 to limit the number of SDF officers engaged in active duty.

Although the Defense Ministry aims to recruit 47,900 reserves, only about 70 percent of the positions have been filled, while the number of vacant posts is increasing year by year.

“As reserves are hard-pressed to take time off from work for training, the reality is that the system is supported by understanding companies,” said a senior official of the Ground SDF.

To improve the situation, the Defense Ministry has said it will provide preferential treatment to companies that employ reservists beginning this fiscal year, such as giving additional points in evaluations of tenders for its construction projects if SDF reservists are involved as construction workers.

Some 1,690 reservists found themselves called up for duty for the first time following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami disaster, when they joined 100,000 active SDF personnel in coordinating rescue and support operations. At that time, reservists assisted with searches for missing people, provided medical support and worked as translators for U.S. military officers who were serving in disaster-hit areas in support of relief activities.

The ministry created a database to help coordinate disaster relief activities after the Great East Japan Earthquake . The database lists relevant qualifications for each SDF member of the force — such as whether they are licensed to operate heavy equipment — so that qualified personnel can be called up first in the event of a future disaster.