Capt. Kazue Kashiji, the Air Self-Defense Force’s first female pilot and now first female flight instructor, feels she was born to fly, having grown up watching her father work as an aircraft mechanic with the Maritime Self-Defense Force.

“I aspired to become a pilot in my childhood when I watched a glider fly over my house,” said Kashiji, 31, whose family has been closely associated with the Self-Defense Forces.

She has become a full-fledged instructor after undergoing training since her arrival at the ASDF’s Miho base in the city of Sakai Minato, Tottori Prefecture, about a month ago.

“My policy is safety first,” she said. “My job pertains to looking after the lives of other people. I want to become an instructor who wins the confidence of my students.”

Kashiji, who hails from Noda, Chiba Prefecture, started flying a glider while she was in college.

She opted for a career in the SDF after watching service members engage in relief work after the 1990 eruption of Fugendake, the main peak on Mount Unzen in Nagasaki Prefecture, and after the 1993 earthquake and tsunami that hit Okushiri Island, Hokkaido.

Determined to be useful, she chose a future path in the SDF, eventually focusing on the ASDF. Kashiji said her father did not say anything but was “pleased” to know she wanted to be a pilot.

Kashiji became the ASDF’s first female pilot in 1997. She has flown transport aircraft, carrying personnel and supplies, and was sent to Indonesia last year for overseas training.

She is at the Miho base on the third assignment of her ASDF career. The base, she said, is like her “hometown” because it is where she qualified as a pilot.

Kashiji is considerate of the ground crew, pointing out she can only fly with the support of many people.

She does not dwell too much on being the ASDF’s first female pilot and instructor, noting there are many women in the SDF.

For a change of pace, Kashiji scuba dives and drives a motorcycle. Her husband, who joined the ASDF the same year she did, is an air traffic controller at the ASDF’s Iruma air base in Saitama Prefecture.