The Ground Self-Defense Force on Saturday conducted one of its largest live-fire drills ever on Japanese soil at its Higashi-Fuji Training Area in Shizuoka Prefecture.

The Fuji Firing and Training Exercise, held every year since 1961, is open to the public. According to GSDF officials, Saturday’s version involved 35 tons of ammunition, worth a total of 320 million yen.

Some 2,000 GSDF troops participated in the roughly 90-minute exercise involving tanks and helicopters. It was based on a scenario that enemy forces had landed in Japan.

Armored vehicles and antitank weapons used by GSDF personnel in the ongoing reconstruction mission in Iraq were also used in the drill.

Back from Iraq

SAPPORO (Kyodo) About 240 troops returned Saturday to Japan after completing their humanitarian reconstruction mission in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah.

The Ground Self-Defense Force personnel arrived at an Air Self-Defense Force base in Chitose, Hokkaido, aboard a chartered plane following a three-month tour of duty in Samawah.

They are members of the 470-member second contingent to Iraq, which is now rotating back to Japan.

The first batch of about 100 troops returned earlier this month, and the remaining personnel are scheduled to come back in early September.

The second contingent has been led by Col. Yuki Imaura and consists mainly of members of the Northern Army’s 11th Division headquartered in Sapporo. They replaced the first GSDF team sent to Samawah from February to May.

The third full contingent of about 500 GSDF troops, which consists mainly of personnel from the Northeastern Army’s 9th Division based in Aomori, Aomori Prefecture, has taken over the mission in Samawah.

Ground troops have been deployed in Samawah on a humanitarian aid mission since January to help rebuild local infrastructure, purify water and provide medical relief.

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