For Japanese Gen. Eiji Kimizuka, being inducted into the International Hall of Fame at the Command and General Staff College was a chance to teach students about what it was like to help his country recover from a major disaster.
Kimizuka, now the chief of staff of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, and Malawi Gen. Henry L. Odillo, commander of the Malawi Defence Force, were both inducted into the IHOF Sept. 24. The honor recognizes international graduates of CGSC who have attained the highest positions of military importance in their country's armed forces. Some have even become heads of state. Photographs of past IHOF inductees are in the gallery on the third floor of the Lewis and Clark Center. IHOF was established in 1973 by CGSC, the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the Military Order of World Wars and the CGSC Alumni Association, now known as the CGSC Foundation.
Lt. Gen. David Perkins, commandant of CGSC and commander of the Combined Arms Center, told students that IHOF inductees were an example of excellence.
"To those of you who are students now, (this) shows you, in fact, that those who have gone before have done well, and how high esteem this institution is held," Perkins said.
Kimizuka, a 1991 graduate of CGSC, has served his nation's military for 36 years.
On March 11, 2011, a major earthquake off the coast of Japan caused tsunami waves that hit along the coast for more than 600 miles. More than 400,000 people were evacuated and nearly 20,000 were counted as dead or missing. The disaster caused a nuclear accident. And the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, along with a joint task force, was given the mission of providing life-saving services.
"I clearly remember that I had complete control of myself then, even though I knew what a heavy responsibility I had taken on," Kimizuka said. "I said to every member that we were the last defense for Japan — these people are counting on us to support and alleviate their needs."
During the operation, they rescued about 20,000 people and recovered more than 10,000 bodies.
"The recovery operation fatigued soldiers both physically and mentally," Kimizuka said. "The then-defense minister ordered to treat the recovered bodies with the same respect as if they were still alive. I slightly altered this order in my own way, to treat the bodies as if they were our own family."
With no textbook manual to tell them what to do, the Japanese troops formed a grid and searched each part for the missing or injured. It was worse than they expected, Kimizuka said, and both young and experienced service members still suffer flashbacks caused by the things they saw.
"It was so tough an occasion when we held the body with a baby in the arms," he said. "It was almost too unbearable to see. Furthermore, hundreds of soldiers were committed to the operation without knowing the safety of their own family."
After about six weeks, they could no longer find any survivors.
"Thanks to the deliberative support of survivors and the respectful attitude to the bodies, our operation gained a 98 percent approval rating when leaving. This JGSDF case will not be the world standard model; however, I believe this should be a model to analyze further situations correctly and appropriately given the special circumstances of future missions."
Odillo has served in Malawi's military for 34 years. He uses the initials "OSC" and "NDC" with his name for graduating from CGSC and the Kenyan National Defence College. Odillo attended CGSC in 1996.
According to his biography, as a senior officer, Odillo has been commanding officer of a reconnaissance squadron and the Recruits Wing at the Malawi Armed Forces College, as well as a number of battalion staff and command positions. Odillo was also defence adviser to the United Kingdom, brigade commander, acting chief of staff and now serves as Defence Force commander.
Odillo is the second IHOF inductee from Malawi.
"Fellow students described him as a diligent worker who takes his work seriously but also remained popular," Perkins said.
Odillo thanked CGSC for the honor, and especially his sponsors, the Arts family. He said he would always cherish the memories of his time at Fort Leavenworth.
"This college prepared us to deal with the ever changing challenges along the way," he said.