Japanese Troops Welcome Abizaid in Samawah, Iraq
By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service
DOHA, Qatar, Nov. 16, 2004 Japanese troops extended a warm welcome to U.S. Army Gen. John Abizaid today on their base in Samawah, Iraq, where the commander of U.S. Central Command made the final stop of a three-day visit to coalition forces in Iraq.
"It is our honor to have the general visit us here at this camp," said Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force Lt. Col. Yoichi Fukumoto, spokesman for the Japanese contingent on Camp Samawah. "I can tell you that our morale was definitely enhanced by this visit."
During the visit, Abizaid met with senior Japanese leaders and received an update on their operations. He also received a tour of their installation and even had the opportunity to enjoy a lunch of Japanese food in the dining facility.
There are roughly 550 Japanese personnel serving in Samawah, which is located in a relatively peaceful portion of southern Iraq. Operating as part of a coalition multinational division, the Japanese troops are focused almost exclusively on humanitarian operations and providing construction support, according to Fukumoto.
The primary specialties of the Japanese troops in Samawah are engineering and medical, and there is also a complement of infantry to provide defense and force protection, Fukumoto said.
"Though we did have a mortar attack, we do not have a very serious threat against us here," Fukumoto said. "Dutch soldiers are doing a very good job of providing security for us, and the Iraqi police are also helping to keep us secure."
The Japanese troops are aware of the importance of their mission, and they are dedicated to it, Fukumoto said, adding that the mission is historically significant for Japan because this is the first time Japanese troops have served as part of a multinational division.
"We are doing a very important job in helping to reconstruct Iraq," Fukumoto said.
Abizaid agreed that the Japanese are conducting an important mission in Iraq and said they are valued as coalition partners and allies.
"The Japanese military is ... very professional, very organized, and one of the most capable militaries in the world," Abizaid said. "They are designed specifically to play a defensive role, and this (deployment) represents a very important step for them to be involved militarily in important missions abroad. We welcome them here and are glad that they're a part of the team."