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News > Yokota UH-1 pilot shares his experience on relief mission
Yokota helicopters take on different mission
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Two UH-1N Iroquois helicopters land here after transporting search and rescue members to Kasuminome Airfield March 13. UH-1N helicopters at Yokota Air Base normally provide base leadership fast and efficient means of transit to meetings and events in downtown Tokyo, but are currently being used to shuttle disaster relief personnel to locations along Japan’s East Coast. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)
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Yokota UH-1 pilot shares his experience on relief mission

Posted 3/17/2011   Updated 3/17/2011 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Lynsie Nichols
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

3/17/2011 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- In the past week, the people of Japan have been through a lot. It began on Friday, March 11 after an earthquake measuring 8.9 in magnitude at its epicenter and tsunami which destroyed parts of the northeastern Japanese coast.

On March 13, 459th Airlift Squadron members took a crisis action team to Kasuminome Airport, located approximately 3 miles southeast of Sendai, Japan, to integrate in search and rescue efforts.

Maj. Destry Hill, 459th AS UH-1N pilot, was aboard one of the helicopters which delivered the crisis action teams.

As he flew over the disaster zone, the extent of the damage was apparent.

"We flew near the Sendai Airport, and as of Sunday night, the runways were not even identifiable. They were covered with sand, mud and puddles of water," described Maj. Hill. "The area, inland from the coast, about a mile was all underwater."

Even at night, Maj. Hill could see the impact of the natural disaster which had stricken the coastline.

"We were coming in during the evening and there were lights shining and things like that," Maj. Hill said. "But [by] the damage around the coastline, it was dark and the devastation was profound."

After dropping the crisis action teams off, Maj. Hill and his crew were able to go to another airfield to get fuel and then return to Yokota.

During his experience, Maj. Hill noted how impressed he was with the organization of the Japanese Aerospace.

"The one thing that I did see, was that we have a good relationship," said Maj. Hill. "As un-eventful as our flight up there was and how willing they were to integrate our operation into their already very busy aerospace system, was just a testament to what we might expect if they did call on us."

Maj. Hill emphasized that the organization of the Japanese Aerospace made him comfortable in the knowledge that he'd be directly involved in supporting humanitarian efforts for the Japanese people if he were to be called to go back to the Sendai area.

"I want to help people, and if the leadership here determines that the best way I can do that is by flying a helicopter up there and conducting operations, then I will be proud to do that," Maj. Hill said. "Again, I'm just amazed, based on the devastation of this event, how poised and honorable the Japanese people are conducting themselves. I have a number of friends that are Japanese, and my heart really goes out to them."

The recent events have taken their toll on many, but Maj. Hill says he feels honored to help out in any way he can.

"The opportunity to step forward and do the job that I signed up to do in a way that is impacting and meaningful is why I became a helicopter pilot," said Maj. Hill. "I'm very proud of our organization, our squadron, our group and our wing for being capable to step up in such a timely manner to help the Japanese."

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