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News > Commander discusses Yokota's role in Operation Tomodachi
Operation Tomodachi
SENDAI AIRPORT, Japan -- Airmen from the 36th Airlift Squadron push a pallet off a C-130H Hercules at Sendai Airport, Japan, March 26. The water that was airlifted to Sendai Airport is part of the more than 1.5 million pounds of water being moved from Yokota Air Base to northern Japan in support of Operation Tomodachi. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jeromy K. Cross)
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Commander discusses Yokota's role in Operation Tomodachi

Posted 3/27/2011   Updated 3/27/2011 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Robin Stanchak
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

3/27/2011 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 374th Airlift Wing's role as the sole airlift hub of the western Pacific increased in significance following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan.

During a recent interview, Col. Otto Feather, 374th AW commander, sat down to discuss the importance of the wing's partnership with the nation of Japan to ongoing relief efforts.

"We live and work here with the Japanese every day and we have a great relationship with the government and their defense forces," said Colonel Feather. "When all of this happened, we were in close contact with them to provide support with whatever they needed, it was a great help, especially early on in the operation."

"Over 2,200 Japanese Nationals work at Yokota Air Base every day," said Colonel Feather. "Those affected by this tragedy are our friends and relatives; this brings the significance of this effort even closer to our hearts."

The fact that these twin disasters happened in such close proximity to Yokota allowed for a rapid response capability, he added. "You couldn't ask for a more perfect setup than having us right here, ready to help."

During the first few days following the earthquake and tsunami, surveillance missions launched from Yokota gathered imagery and information on areas in the north that could be used as runways. Airmen from the 353rd Special Operations Group based out of Kadena Air Base were repositioned here so they could help clear debris from Sendai Airport eventually enabling larger, fixed-wing aircraft carrying humanitarian relief supplies the ability to land.

"Essentially our teams flowed forward and opened Sendai, so that others could flow in after that," he said. "It was our special operators that moved in there, opened up that airfield and got it running."

Postured primarily for airlift operations, during the current relief operations the base has been the primary staging location for all aircraft that have flown in and out performing support and resupply for the effort to the north.

To date, more than 370 sorties have launched out of Yokota, not only by aircraft assigned here, but also transient aircraft that have flowed through to support the effort. Additionally, the wing has been the logistical hub for supplies and equipment needed to sustain current operations. 

Recently, more than 1 million pounds of water was delivered by truck to Yokota. The water, a donation from three separate vendors to the Government of Japan, is in the process of being airlifted to areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Relief supplies, including food, blankets, medical items and medicine, as well as portable showers have been delivered.

In addition to providing airlift operations, 374th AW personnel have stepped up and volunteered their capabilities as well. 

Recently, the Royal Australian Air Force transported several large water pump systems to Yokota for use by Japanese workers to help cool the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power station. However, once the pumps arrived it was discovered that the fittings used by the Japanese did not match up with the fittings used by the Australians.

In order to ensure equipment compatibility, members of the 374th Maintenance Squadron worked to create several custom-made flanges to fit the two parts together. Once the parts were completed, they were given to the Japanese Self-Defense Force to transport to the plant. 

Not only has Yokota worked hand-in-hand with Japanese partners, the base has also partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy to provide transportation to various sites on a regular basis, often flying daily missions to support their operations.

"Team Yokota brings a limitless capability and we are fully committed to supporting the disaster response efforts of the Government of Japan and the Japan Self-Defense Force," said Colonel Feather.

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