The Defense Ministry has called up Self-Defense Forces ready reserves and reserves for the disaster-relief mission following powerful Typhoon Hagibis, in consideration of the extensive damage and expected prolonged recovery efforts.
The decision marks the first time that such reserves have been mobilized since the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
In addition to 31,000 active SDF personnel, the ministry has called up more than 260 SDF ready reserves and reserves to engage in work to remove debris and mud and to provide public hygiene support in prefectures including Miyagi, Fukushima, Tochigi and Nagano. The number of personnel in certain regions will be boosted by up to 1,000 people, by drawing on reserves, depending on the situations in the disaster areas.
A senior ministry official said road repairs and debris removal may take even longer due to damage from torrential rains after the typhoon — the 19th named storm of the year.
As of the end of March 2019 there were about 34,000 SDF reserves, including some 2,400 women. They consist of former SDF personnel and other civilians who have undergone specified education and training, who are usually working for private-sector companies.
The number of SDF ready reserves, made up of former SDF personnel in principle, stood at about 4,300. The prime minister’s approval is required to mobilize SDF ready reserves and reserves.
A total of 1,600 SDF ready reserves and reserves were involved in disaster-relief activities after the March 2011 disasters. SDF ready reserves were also called up after powerful earthquakes in and around Kumamoto Prefecture in 2016, and following a strong quake that hit Hokkaido in September last year.
In fiscal 2018, SDF members dispatched on disaster-relief missions after a spate of large-scale flood disasters and quakes totaled 1.19 million, hitting the highest level since the March 2011 disaster.
There are some 220,000 active SDF personnel, which falls short of the enrollment quota. With the number of ready reserves meeting some 50 percent of its respective quota and reserves 70 percent, the ministry faces challenges in covering the personnel shortages.
The ministry provides ¥510,000 annually per head to companies that employ SDF ready reserves as they need to take part in lengthy training.
In addition, it has created a system of paying benefits to employers when SDF ready reserves and reserves are called up for missions. In the latest mission, following the typhoon, companies are set to receive daily benefits of ¥34,000 per head in the first application of the payment system.
At a recent news conference, Defense Minister Taro Kono said that the amount of work expected of the SDF in times of disaster will not decrease, and that SDF ready reserves and reserves need to play greater roles accordingly. The government will make efforts to win the support of employers to secure reserve personnel, Kono said.