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Japan GSDF member may be punished in power harassment probe after subordinate's suicide

The Defense Ministry is seen in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward. (Mainichi/Masahiro Ogawa)

NAGASAKI -- The Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) is considering taking disciplinary action against a sergeant major for possible power harassment, after one of his subordinates, a sergeant at Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, died by suicide in November 2021, the Mainichi Shimbun has found.

    According to the GSDF, the sergeant in his 20s, who belonged to the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, wrote in a mental health check sheet around October 2021 that his health was poor. However, his supervisor, a male sergeant major in his 40s, apparently ordered him to rewrite the form. In early November 2021, the sergeant fell unconscious after attempting suicide at his home in Sasebo, and died on Nov. 7 that year.

    Several members including the sergeant who died were apparently ordered to rewrite the form, and the GSDF is investigating the sergeant major's actions as constituting power harassment that caused mental distress and worsened the work environment.

    The Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade is in charge of amphibious operations for the defense of remote islands and has about 2,400 members at Camp Ainoura and other locations.

    Regarding the sergeant's suicide, a master sergeant from the same unit held a news conference in the city of Nagasaki on Jan. 10, saying that he had suffered mental anguish because he was suspected of involvement in the incident and had been ordered to take a leave of absence or be reassigned, even though he claims he had nothing to do with it.

    (Japanese original by Atsuki Nakayama, Nagasaki Bureau)

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