(Kanagawa Shimbun: March 23, 2015 – p.22)
A graduation ceremony was held at the National Defense Academy (Hashirimizu, Yokosuka City) on March 22. The 59th class counted 492 graduates. The number of commissioned Self-Defense Forces officers excluding students from overseas was 442, the highest number in the last 10 years. Of the 442, 223 were Ground Self-Defense Force officers; 118, Maritime Self-Defense Force officers; and 101, Air Self-Defense Force officers. The number of graduates who turned down a commission was 25, 15 more than last year.
In his address to the graduates, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with preparations for security legislation based on the approval of the right to exercise collective self-defense in mind, said: “In order to realize the war-renouncing resolution, we have to learn from our forefathers and act with determination. When we act, we will be exposed to criticism. However, the history of the past 70 years has proven that such criticism was absurd.”
The academy president, Ryosei Kokubun, encouraged the graduates by saying, “Today’s graduates have determined to dedicate their lives to the protection of their country and its people at the expense of their own safety and lives.”
Graduates normally wear the academy uniform during the induction and swearing-in ceremony for SDF cadets, which is conducted in combination with the graduation ceremony. However, this year they wore the uniform of their branch of service.
Beginning last year, graduates who refuse commissions in the SDF are barred from attending the graduation ceremony. Explains the academy: “Those who refuse a commission in the SDF are treated as personnel who retired early from national public service. As remarks are made at the ceremony on the premise that graduates will be future SDF officers, it is inappropriate for those who refuse commissions to be part of the ceremony.”