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NEWS | March 14, 2023

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force celebrates 10-year anniversary at Camp Zama

By Tim Flack

CAMP ZAMA, Japan – The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force celebrated its 10-year anniversary of the establishment of a JGSDF camp at Camp Zama with a ceremony and reception held here March 4.

The event, hosted by Col. Kenji Honda, commander of the 4th Engineer Group and JGSDF Camp Zama, began with a ceremony on the JGSDF parade deck and transitioned to the reception at the Camp Zama Community Club.

Invited guests included Maj. Gen JB Vowell, commander of U.S. Army Japan; Col. Christopher L. Tomlinson, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan; Col. Jaren Price, commander of I Corps (Forward); Sagamihara City Mayor Kentaro Motomura; and Zama City Mayor Mito Sato, among others.

The JGSDF’s relationship with Camp Zama dates back to 1971 when the Japanese government established a “sub-camp” on the installation. But in 2013, the sub-camp was expanded into a primary camp, along with the relocation of the JGSDF’s Central Readiness Force headquarters.

Over the years, the JGSDF experienced various transformations, to include the disbandment of the CRF, the establishment of the Ground Component Command, and the relocation of the 364th Engineer Company, 4th Engineer Group, from Camp Komakado to Camp Zama.

During the ceremony, Honda emphasized the need for the JGSDF to “protect [the] peace and independence of our country and maintain the security of its citizens.”

He added that to accomplish those goals, it was crucial to earn the trust and understanding of the local communities.

Honda also delivered a message to the JGSDF members standing in formation on the parade deck, saying it was important they work hard to achieve the mission.

“I request each of you to push forward ... with pride as a JGSDF member and with a strong sense of duty,” he said. “Let’s make this JGSDF camp more reliable under the motto, ‘Together with the local community, and together with United States Army Japan.’”

During the reception, Toshitaro Sone, chairman of the JGSDF Zama Supporter’s Organization, thanked attendees for honoring the anniversary.

“I hope the JGSDF can accomplish the mission to defend our country and contribute to world peace,” Sone said.

Maj. Gen. Ryuji Toyota, director of the Bilateral Coordination Department, also provided remarks at the reception.

“Camp Zama is critical to the Japan-U.S. alliance from the standpoint of the ground component, and it is rare for the JGSDF and the U.S. Army to work together at the same camp,” he said.

Senior leaders gathered at the front of the club during the reception for a “kagami biraki” ceremony in which they used wooden mallets to break open a Japanese sake barrel for a toast.

Tomlinson expressed his gratitude for being invited to the event, saying the relationship with his JGSDF counterparts is of the utmost importance.

“Our relationships and teamwork help showcase the importance of our long-standing alliance with Japan,” he said. “I greatly appreciate our JGSDF partners, and value our ability to work together to tackle any mission.”