• Kyodo

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Japan will soon have its first female paratrooper, a 31-year-old woman who finished formal training on Wednesday and is set to join the Ground Self-Defense Force’s 1st Airborne Brigade.

Sgt. Reina Hashiba took part in a ceremony at Camp Narashino in Chiba Prefecture along with about 100 male members, and will be assigned to the GSDF’s sole airborne brigade, based at the camp, on March 16, according to the force.

“I think there will be more female members who seek to join,” said Hashiba, adding that she will work hard in the elite paratrooper unit.

Members of the elite unit are trained to be parachuted near enemy lines from heights of around 300 meters or more.

The ban on women joining the unit was lifted in 2017. Prospective female paratroopers are required to have the same level of physical fitness as their male counterparts.

Reflecting on the lifting of the ban, Hashiba said, “I felt my dream would finally come true.”

“It has been my dream to become a member of the brigade since I was a fourth grader, when I saw a paratrooper parachuting from my school window,” said Hashiba, a native of Yachiyo, Chiba.

During the five-week training period, she carried loads of some 60 kilograms including a parachute and rifle, and parachuted out of aircraft five times.

GSDF units are now mostly open to women, with the exception of those engaged in tasks that are deemed harmful during pregnancy.

The number of women in the Self-Defense Forces has been on the rise. There were some 16,000 female members as of the end of fiscal 2018, accounting for about 7 percent of the total of 226,000.

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