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Japanese National keeps cargo on course
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Mr. Hidenano Nakanishi, 730th Air Mobility Squadron (AMS), backs up a forklift with medical supplies for Operation Tomodachi here March 23. The 730th AMS has been storing and delivering en-route cargo to aircrafts and vehicles in support of humanitarian assistance. The cargo that the 730th AMS processed includes water, food, medical supplies and other basic necessities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jonathan Steffen)
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Yokota's Japanese Nationals help their own

Posted 3/23/2011   Updated 3/23/2011 Email story   Print story


by 2nd Lt. Christopher Love
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

3/23/2011 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- In the aftermath of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, March 11, much attention has been given to the military members, U.S. and otherwise, supporting the relief effort from Yokota. Fewer people realize, however, that Yokota also houses another huge team of workers, without whom coalition forces would struggle greatly to complete their mission.

At roughly 2,200 strong, Japanese Nationals form a considerable part of the workforce at Yokota. They provide a vital supporting role, contributing to a wide range of operations. And now, with thousands of their own people dead and far more displaced in shelters, the relevance of their efforts has never been greater.

"We started a 24-hour schedule, yesterday," said Mr. Hidenao Nakanishi, 730th Air Mobility Squadron forklift operator foreman.

Mr. Nakanishi and his 18-member team have been helping to fill the numerous pallets of food, water and supplies that C-130s and C-17s transport daily to locations in northern Japan. During an interview with representatives from Public Affairs, Mr. Nakanishi pointed to 1,000 empty pallets that he and other members of AMS can expect to load in the coming days and weeks.

A long-time employee at Yokota, Mr. Nakanishi stated: "This is the busiest time in twenty-seven years."

Another member of team Yokota, Mr. Shunkichi Hiraide, 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron supervisory stock control, has also had to adjust to the heightened operations tempo.

"The C-130s now have lots of flying missions, and, as a result, transporters like us have gotten busy too" Mr. Hiraide said.

When asked how it felt to be directly involved in helping his own people, the 12-year veteran of Yokota remarked that "As an individual, there is a limit to what one can do." Yet he went on to say, "As a member of this team, I can contribute far more to those in hard times."

For some of the JNs working here, the disaster in the north not only affected fellow countrymen, but friends and family too.

One worker, Mr. Toru Miyakoshi, 374th LRS warehouse man was fortunate, in that his relative is alive and well.

"My cousin was in the north; but, through my mother, I heard that my cousin was safe," Mr. Miyakoshi said. "My cousin lives in Sendai."

Even as they work hard in support of Operation Tomodachi, most of Yokota's JNs are reluctant to comment on their efforts. Instead, many turn the conversation toward the U.S. and Coalition forces working alongside them to aid the people of Japan.

Mr. Takeshi Moriyama, a warehouse man with the 374th LRS, said "I was so surprised with all the military people helping Japan. Thank you. I have said 'Thank you' to lots of the military members around me, and they've said 'This is just our job.'

Another JN, Mr. Masahiko Sukegawa from the 730th AMS, was asked if he would like make a comment. He responded, after a pause, by saying: "I am very grateful to the AF members who work here at Yokota Air Base to support the earthquake relief. On behalf of the Japanese people, I'd like to thank you. I am so proud that I am working at this squadron."

The appreciation goes both ways.

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