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Delta Air Llines aircraft safely depart Yokota
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airmen from the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron refuel a Delta Air Lines aircraft here March 12, after being diverted from Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan, the day before following an earthquake that struck off the eastern coast of Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)
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Yokota comes together to assist during earthquake aftermath

Posted 3/12/2011   Updated 3/12/2011 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Robin Stanchak and Airman 1st Class Katrina Menchaca
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

3/12/2011 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- At approximately 2:50 p.m. local time, an earthquake measuring 8.9 in magnitude at its epicenter, hit the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Northeastern Japan, disrupting operations at Narita International Airport in Tokyo and other local airports March 11.

Shortly following the earthquake, Yokota Air Base was identified as an alternate airfield for 11 commercial aircraft that had to be diverted due to closures following the event.

Simultaneously, the base began performing a personnel accountability recall and activating the installation command center and emergency operations center.

At 3:36 p.m. local time, Yokota received its first divert request from Narita IAP. At which time the base received aircraft from Delta, American, United, KLM and Continental Airlines.

"After the earthquake, our squadron recalled a lot of personnel into their work centers. We were tasked to provide refueling and transportation support for the aircraft that landed here," said Tech. Sgt. Brian Logan, 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operations control center supervisor. "Not only were our military personnel called in to help, we also had our Japanese national employees assisting as well."

Additionally, the 374th Mission Support Group, the 374th Operations Group, the 374th Maintenance Group and the 730th Air Mobility Squadron, came together to coordinate locations on the flightline where the diverted aircraft would be temporarily parked and how the situation would be handled while the aircraft were here at Yokota.

During this time, it also had to be taken into consideration how the passengers and aircrew onboard the aircraft would be assisted, should they need food or water, or even a place to stay on base for an extended period of time.

Coordination with the commercial airliners was also needed to facilitate which aircraft would be able to depart Yokota, and which were going to be required to bed down for the night.

A total of 570 passengers and 29 aircrew members were transported from the aircraft to the Taiyo Community Center here where they received lodging, bedding, food and water for the night.

The facility, which is often times used for commander's calls and mass briefings, was converted into a refuge for nearly 600 international travelers, equipped with chairs, pillows and blankets, enough supplies to keep the passengers comfortable until their aircraft could continue on to its original destination.

"Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with our gracious Japanese neighbors," said Col. Otto Feather, 374th Airlift Wing commander. "We hope that a catastrophe such as this never occurs, but when it does, you can be sure that we are prepared and ready to assist in any way possible."

3/12/2011 4:31:24 PM ET
I was at Yakota AFB performing some GOQ assessments in 2009. Met many great folks and have fond memories of the town. Base personnel and townspeople are in my prayers.
Jeff Gordon, Vicksburg MS
3/12/2011 3:59:02 PM ET
Those Airmen were actually from the 730th AMS. 374 AW/PA response: Thanks for the update, we'll make sure it is corrected
Chris, Yokota AB
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