The 1st Airborne Brigade (第1空挺団 Dai-ichi Kūtei-dan ), also known as the Narashino Airborne Brigade, is stationed in the Narashino Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces (JGSDF) Base in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture. It is part of the Eastern Army in the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force.
The Brigade serves as Japan’s elite paratrooper unit. Under the Brigade is the Guide Unit, serving as its NEO (Non-combatant Evacuation Operations) unit.
The unit is being likened similarly to the Western Army Infantry Regiment and the recently established Japanese Special Operations Group, since these units are some of Japan’s only Special Forces units with an offensive capability as some of Japan’s other Special Forces units are assigned to CT or defensive duties.
After the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War, American occupation forces had allowed the temporary formation of an airborne party from within the ranks of the JGSDF as tensions continued to increase between the United States and the former Soviet Union in 1955. In 1958, the Airborne Brigade’s first platoon was formed, continuing to increase in numbers as ranger and free-fall training were added in 1962 and 1969. An additional armed transport unit was established in 1973.
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 the Gunma Prefecture, 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 in 1995.
The unit was in a small controversy in 2000 when the Defense Agency announced that a small unit would be formed in order to be dispatched in foreign soil to rescue stranded Japanese and foreign nationals. The plan had caused tensions with most of the Asian countries like China, Taiwan and South Korea, though this issue was never brought up to international attention.
In 2003, the Special Operations Group was established as an anti-guerilla/terrorist unit alongside the Western Army Infantry Regiment embedded in the Brigade, but was separated in 2004 and placed under the control of the Defense Agency like most of the JSDF’s Special Forces units.
Recently, 1st Airborne Brigade paratroopers are involved in Iraq as the Brigade has started to rotate ground personnel as part of the Japanese government’s commitment to Iraq, though they could be withdrawn from Iraqi soil anytime before the end of 2006.
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 seconds
1st Airborne Brigade paratroopers have only been seen in action through annual new year JSDF exhibition shows in Narashino
The Brigade has scheduled 170 paratroopers to be sent into Samawa as part of the JGSDF’s commitment in Iraq.
A good thing to note here is if JGSDF forces are allowed entry into a foreign country in order to rescue either Japanese or friendly nationals, 1st Airborne Brigade paratroopers are to be officially deployed.