CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Oct. 28, 2019) -- A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force officer was inducted into the Order of Military Medical Merit, an honor normally reserved for U.S. Army Medical Department professionals, during an Oct. 24 ceremony here.

Lt. Col. Shuichi Kawano smiled as Col. Marvin Emerson, commander of Medical Department Activity--Japan, draped a silver medallion on Kawano's neck, welcoming him to the Order in front of a crowd of Army and JGSDF medical professionals gathered at Camp Zama's BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic.

Inductees in the Order of Military Medical Merit are those who have "clearly demonstrated the highest standards of integrity and moral character, displayed an outstanding degree of professional competence … and have made a sustained contribution to the betterment of [U.S.] Army Medicine," according to the Army Medical Department Regiment website.

"It's very exceptional for non-U.S. military personnel to receive the honorary award," Emerson said during the ceremony.

Kawano is currently assigned to the JGSDF Medical Service School at Camp Mishuku in Tokyo, but was recognized for his support and contributions to AMEDD as the JGSDF medical liaison officer for Health Care Operations with the Office of the Surgeon General in northern Virginia from 2016 to 2018.

Members of the Order must be nominated for the recognition--another notable aspect of Kawano's induction. His nominator was retired Lt. Gen. Nadja West, the 44th Army surgeon general, who held the position from 2015 to 2019.

West highlighted Kawano's achievements during his tenure with her office, writing that he "coordinated the enrollment of the fellow JGSDF personnel in AMEDD medical skills training programs, participated in numerous Tactical Combat Care Casualty, or TC3, working groups, and facilitated several meetings between senior JGSDF and governmental leaders and U.S. medical leaders."

As the JGSDF medical liaison officer, Kawano said his intention was always to build a stronger partnership between the U.S. and Japan, and AMEDD and JGSDF medics, by sharing information, knowledge and experience.

His time working with the Office of the Surgeon General was full of unique challenges, Kawano said, but he appreciated it for the experiences he could not have gotten elsewhere.

"Being involved in TC3 especially became near and dear to my heart," Kawano said. "I truly feel like I was meant to be part of it.

"I am really honored to receive this award," he added.

Emerson said it is "absolutely essential" to continue to have liaison officers between each country in order to share the latest medical technology and the techniques, tactics and procedures that can be used to support the mission during everything from combat operations to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The commanding general of U.S. Army Health Services Command founded the Order of Military Medical Merit in 1982 to "recognize excellence and promote fellowship and esprit de corps among AMEDD personnel," according to the Army Medical Department Regiment website.