1st Airborne Brigade (Japan)

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1st Airborne Brigade
JGSDF 1st Airborne Brigade.svg
1st Airborne Brigade Shoulder Sleeve Patch
ActiveJune 25, 1958 – present
Country Japan
Branch Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
TypeAirborne brigade
RoleAir assault
Direct Action
Unconventional Warfare
Size1,900 soldiers
Part ofGround Component Command (陸上総隊)
Garrison/HQCamp Narashino, Funasbashi, Chiba
Nickname(s)Narashino Airborne Brigade, 1AB
Motto(s)The Matchless Elite Second To None (精鋭無比)
EngagementsIraq 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's Ground Component Command (陸上総隊) (formerly Central Readiness Force).[5]


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.[6] An additional armed transport unit was established in 1973.[6]

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,[7] 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[6] and after the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake in 1995.[7]

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.[6] In 2003, the framework of the Special Operations Group was established as an anti-guerrilla/terrorist unit embedded in the Brigade,[6] 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.[6]

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.[8]

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.[9]


Firearms Handling[edit]

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.[10] Lieutenant Colonels Yoshiharu Amano and Michihiko Suzuki were suspended for 20 days for neglect of duty.[11]

Iraq War[edit]

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.[12] 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.[12]


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:

  • Join the Brigade on or under 28 if a private; otherwise NCOs (usually Sergeants) must join on or under 36 years of age.
  • Have the standard weight and height of 49 kg and 161 cm with chest measurements at 78.5 cm
  • Lung capacity of at least 3,200 cm³ or more
  • Have no criminal record
  • Have the following points from his time in the JGSDF:
    • 5 classes or more, 1st method above various eye minimum of 45 points
    • Airborne system has been above each minimum of 60 points of 5 items such as suspension stooping jump from aircraft.
  • Must be able to lift objects at 30 kg, under, and above for 50 s
  • Blood pressure must be at 140mmHg~100mmHg and 90mmHg to candidates who are 34 years old or less.

Ranger qualification[edit]

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.
Members of the 1st Airborne Brigade who participated in the Cobra Gold exercise (2012)

The following structure is as follows:[13]

  • Headquarters
  • Headquarters Company
  • 1st Infantry Battalion (Airborne)
  • 2nd Infantry Battalion (Airborne)
  • 3rd Infantry Battalion (Airborne)
  • Airborne Artillery Battalion, with three batteries of F1 120mm mortars
  • Airborne Logistic Support Battalion
  • Signal Company
  • Engineer Company
  • Airborne School


Standard weapons are from the JGSDF, including:[14]



1st Airborne Brigade paratroopers fast rope from a Kawasaki CH-47 chopper during a public exhibition at Camp Narashino.
  • 1st Airborne Brigade paratroopers have only been seen in action through annual new year JSDF exhibition shows in Narashino.


  • 170 paratroopers were sent to Samawah, Iraq as part of the JGSDF's commitment to the international effort.[12] Training was conducted for a short time in a joint exercise with American soldiers of the Oregon Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment.[15] All of them were withdrawn following the end of the Japanese commitment in Iraq.

Notable personnel[edit]


  1. ^ a b Herbert Holeman (2000). "The First Airborne Brigade". Archived from the original on 2012-12-15. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  2. ^ a b c ""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. ^ 陸自の中央即応集団が廃止 座間駐屯地に5年 Retrieved 18 June, 2018 (in Japanese)
  6. ^ a b c d e f Unofficial Japanese Special Forces Page. - Internet Archive Link. Retrieved on December 12, 2007. (in Japanese)
  7. ^ a b Nao Simoyachi (2004-06-29). "SDF profile upgraded as anniversary approaches". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-06-13. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ a b "GSDF crime coverup alleged". The Japan Times. 2000-03-17. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  11. ^ "Colonel fired in gun misuse coverup". The Japan Times. 2000-04-17. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  12. ^ a b c "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.
  13. ^ Introduction Page.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Oregon Guard Soldiers Train Japanese Troops for Deployment to Iraq. Retrieved on December 12, 2007. Archived April 19, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ "Japanese hostage confirmed dead". British Broadcasting Corporation. 2005-05-28. Archived from the original on 2014-05-12. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  17. ^ "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[edit]