1st Airborne Brigade (Japan)

1st Airborne Brigade

1st Airborne Brigade Shoulder Sleeve Patch
Active June 25, 1958 – present
Country Japan Japan
Branch Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
Type Airborne Infantry
Role Special operations
Air assault
Direct Action
Unconventional Warfare
Size 1,900 soldiers
Part of Central Readiness Force
Garrison/HQ Camp Narashino, Funasbashi, Chiba
Nickname(s) Narashino Airborne Brigade, 1AB
Motto(s) The Matchless Elite (精鋭無比)
Engagements Iraq War
Maj. Gen. Tadao Maeda
Hayao Kinugasa
Yoshifumi Hibako
Satoshi Mizuno
Yosihiko Doi
Kenichi Kinomura
Shizuo Sekine

The 1st Airborne Brigade (第1空挺団 Dai-Ichi Kūtei Dan), also known as the Narashino Airborne Brigade (習志野空挺団),[1] is stationed in the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) Camp Narashino in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture.[2][3]

The Brigade serves as Japan's elite paratrooper unit meant to counter against either guerrillas or enemy special forces units.[4] Since 1999 the Brigade has a "Guide Unit" (誘導隊), serving as its NEO (Non-combatant Evacuation Operations) unit.[2] Currently, they are attached to current homeland defense and international combat operations under the JGSDF Central Readiness Force.

The unit is being likened similarly to the WAIR, SFGp, and SBU since these units are Japan's only Special Forces units with an offensive capability. Some of Japan's other Special Forces units are assigned to counter-terrorism or defensive duties. Their presence in the JGSDF has served the organization as a morale booster.[1]


1st Airborne Brigade paratroopers in formation in the grounds of Camp Narashino.

In 1958, the Airborne Brigade's first platoon was formed after Hayao Kinugasa was made the first commander of the unit. It continued to increase in numbers as ranger and free-fall training were added in 1962 and 1969.[5] An additional armed transport unit was established in 1973.[5]

In 1985, the 1st Airborne Brigade was involved in rescue operations of the downed Japan Airlines Flight 123 in the ridges of Mount Takamagahara in Gunma Prefecture after the local volunteer fire corps found some survivors,[6] marking the first time that the Brigade was seen in the public eye. Later on, they were also deployed in Yamanashi Prefecture for civil operations[5] and after the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake in 1995.[6]

A Guide Unit was established on October 20, 1999 and based at Funabashi, Chiba.[2] Preparations to create a new special forces unit went underway in the Brigade in 2000.[5] In 2003, the framework of the Special Operations Group was established as an anti-guerrilla/terrorist unit embedded in the Brigade,[5] but was established and separated from the Brigade in 2004 and placed under the control of the Defense Agency via the JGSDF like most of the JSDF's special forces units.[5]

Brigade paratroopers were involved in Iraq as the Brigade rotated ground personnel as part of the Japanese government's commitment to Iraq. They were withdrawn alongside the bulk of the Japanese Iraqi Reconstruction Support Group in the middle of 2006. The brigade was added to the Central Readiness Force on March 28, 2007.[7]

On October 9, 2006, members of the Oregon National Guard had a hand in assisting soldiers of the 1st Airborne Brigade in establishing a sniper school to train the unit's first generation of highly skilled snipers during Orient Shield '07.[8]


Firearms Handling

In 1994, Colonel Yasunobu Hideshima was arrested by JGSDF military police officers for violating both the Self-Defense Forces Law and the Firearm and Sword Control Law when he allowed three of his friends to use JGSDF firearms without prior authorization.[9] Lieutenant Colonels Yoshiharu Amano and Michihiko Suzuki were suspended for 20 days for neglect of duty.[10]

Iraq War

Another scandal emerged from within the unit when a 38-year-old 1st Airborne Brigade paratrooper was arrested in Inzai, Chiba Prefecture for shoplifting. He admitted to officers that he did it to demonstrate that he was serious in his effort to avoid deployment to Iraq.[11] When JGSDF officials heard about this, they told press officials that they require the consent of the troopers and their relatives. Otherwise, they would not be deployed. The Iraq deployment had caused a national debate in Japan, and a new public consensus was necessary for the military to develop a modern role and structure.[11]


Komatsu LAV (Light Armored Vehicle) on display with 1st Airborne Brigade markings.

Before joining the 1st Airborne Brigade, all potential candidates must be able to pass the following requirements:

Ranger qualification

1AB paratroopers receive ranger qualification at the end of the brigade's intensive training. The Ranger badge is highly sought by active duty SDF personnel.[1]


JGSDF 1st Airborne Brigade Battalion Type flag.

The following structure is as follows:[12]


Standard weapons are from the JGSDF, including:[13]



1st Airborne Brigade paratroopers fast rope from a Kawasaki CH-47 chopper during a public exhibition at Camp Narashino.


Notable personnel


  1. 1 2 3 Herbert Holeman (2000). "The First Airborne Brigade". Archived from the original on 2012-12-15. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  2. 1 2 3 ""Guide unit" established in GSDF to transport and escort Japanese nationals overseas in times of emergency". United States of America Embassy in Japan. 1999-10-25. Archived from the original on 2012-10-09. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  3. Japan Ground Self-Defense Force / Central Readiness Force Organization. Archived January 24, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. What is the CRF (Central Readiness Force)? Retrieved on December 12, 2007. Archived January 24, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Unofficial Japanese Special Forces Page. - Internet Archive Link. Retrieved on December 12, 2007. (Japanese)
  6. 1 2 Nao Simoyachi (2004-06-29). "SDF profile upgraded as anniversary approaches". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-06-13. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  8. Staff Sergeant Russel Bassett (2006-10-19). "Japanese sniper school" (PDF). The Observation Post. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-18. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  9. 1 2 "GSDF crime coverup alleged". The Japan Times. 2000-03-17. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  10. "Colonel fired in gun misuse coverup". The Japan Times. 2000-04-17. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  11. 1 2 3 "GSDF sergeant shoplifts to avoid Iraq mission?". The Japan Times. 2006-02-22. Archived from the original on 2013-06-20. Retrieved 2013-06-16.
  12. Introduction Page.
  13. 平成22年 習志野 第1空挺団 降下訓練始め (in Japanese). Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces. Archived from the original on 2013-08-15. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  14. Oregon Guard Soldiers Train Japanese Troops for Deployment to Iraq. Retrieved on December 12, 2007. Archived April 19, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. "Japanese hostage confirmed dead". British Broadcasting Corporation. 2005-05-28. Archived from the original on 2014-05-12. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  16. "Baki's Itagaki to Draw New 1st Airborne Brigade Manga". Anime News Network. 2012-08-15. Archived from the original on 2014-02-25. Retrieved 2013-06-15.

External links

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