MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
Since the earthquake off the coast of Sendai, Japan, and ensuing tsunami, which swept through and nuked the coastal regions of northern Japan March 11, a deluge of relief efforts have filtered through the air station to support Operation Tomodachi, the U.S. armed forces humanitarian relief efforts toward Japan.
As a strategic co-located air and sea port, the station acts as an operational heart by providing an essential logistical and resupply hub.
Relief supplies, personnel and equipment have been pumped in via all means, air, sea and land and then pumped out across the more than 500-mile trek to the front lines in northern Japan where aid can be directed to where it’s needed most.
“Every asset within the Marine Expeditionary Force and the U.S. military is being applied ... whether it is by land, sea or air,” said Col. James C. Stewart, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni commanding officer during a brief of station personnel.
Marines who were scheduled to attend Foal Eagle as well as High Speed Vessels for use elsewhere have been reassigned to assist with relief efforts.
C-130, CH-46 and HSV Westpac Express assets from Okinawa and the U.S. bolstered by MCAS Iwakuni’s own C-12 and ground assets have been the main transportation fleet.
Meanwhile, personnel all over the air station have been tasked with palletizing cargo, standing watch or preparing for any other contingencies.
As of Tuesday, more than 1.5 million pounds of food, water, cargo, supplies and equipment, either have been prepared or transported to distribution hubs more directly connected to the affected areas.
Travelling with all that cargo have been more than 1,200 passengers to either facilitate cargo transportation or provide assistance on the front lines.
To move this plethora of support personnel and equipment, Marines and sailors have put in more than 300 flight-hours over the course of 196 sorties during the past 11 days.
This time commitment doesn’t even factor in the countless hours personnel have put in preparing, loading, unloading and internally transporting cargo.
Not to mention the countless hours put in across the air station to support the operation through less direct means.
“Every piece of paper you prepare, every truck you load and every scan you do serves to help those most affected by this tragedy,” said Stewart .
Many posts and watches have been added to enhance the station’s ability to respond.
“This is our Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Lt. Col. Michael R. Coletta during a brief of station personnel.
And this is just the beginning.
“There is more and more work to be done to aid those who were affected,” said Stewart during a brief of station personnel.
As a result, the air station will continue to support Operation Tomodachi until recovery efforts are complete and Japan is restored.