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NEWS | Feb. 7, 2015

Japanese, American female service members discuss challenges, opportunities of serving

By Maj. Alexandra Weiskopf CAMP ITAMI,Japan

CAMP ITAMI, Japan (Dec. 7, 2015) -- Female Soldiers assigned to various U.S. Army Pacific and I Corps units met with Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, or JGSDF, Middle Army females at a women's mentorship meeting during Exercise Yama Sakura 69 at Camp Itami, Japan, Dec. 5.

The JGSDF Middle Army invited the American women to participate in the meeting, opened by Warrant Officer Akihiro Kanae, command sergeant major of JGSDF Middle Army, and Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Dostie, command sergeant major of U.S. Army Japan.

"You might be from different services," Dostie said, "but you face the same issues."

Ten JGSDF and 10 U.S. Army Service members represented various occupational specialties including logistics, personnel, intelligence, communications, and medical services. They discussed topics such as women serving in uniform, sexual assault, maternity leave, and promotions.

"As a female in the U.S. Army, I can see how a woman in the JGSDF might have troubles" said Capt. Lauren Yoon, I Corps Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion S1. "They've only just now promoted the first woman to sergeant major."

They asked each other about their experiences as women in uniform, and the U.S.'s recent opening of combat arms jobs to women. When asked if the Japanese women would want to serve in combat arms, many of them expressed a desire. The JGSDF members were curious about which combat jobs used to be closed to female Soldiers.

"They asked about the women who graduated from the U.S. Army's Ranger school, and if they were held to the same standards as men," Yoon said. "They [the Japanese] were surprised to find out they (U.S. Army female rangers) are."

The JGSDF explained that their physical fitness test involves push-ups, sit-ups, and a three kilometer run. For women under 30-years-old and men under 40-years-old, the test also includes a long jump, pull ups, and a distance throw. Like the U.S. Army, there are different standards for women and men, and different age groups.

Another topic of interest is how U.S. Soldiers protect their privacy when reporting a sexual assault.

"We have two systems, restricted and unrestricted reporting," said Command Sgt. Major Patrina Amos, command sergeant major, 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. "The system of filing a restricted report helps to empower the victims."

The Americans explained the options to provide a restricted report, and all the options victims have to make them feel comfortable after a sexual assault.

"Between the sexual assault reporting procedures and the systems for selecting victim advocates," JGSDF Master Sgt. Inoue said, "the U.S. Army has more established systems for reporting and dealing with sexual assaults."

While the U.S. Army's sexual assault policy may have interested many of the JGSDF, their maternity leave policy really impressed the Americans.

"It's great that they [the Japanese] get eight weeks of maternity leave with the option for three years with reduced pay while we only get six weeks," said Staff Sgt. Wendy Buie, 17th Field Artillery Brigade intelligence noncommissioned officer in charge. "It definitely seems in line with their culture, in that they are very family-centric."

At the end of the meeting, the Service members said that both men and women progress through the ranks at the same rate to include the officers, and both countries agreed on the importance of women serving their nation. Before adjourning, they agreed to share lessons learned with their respective units and countries.