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Eagle airlifters aid Japan, U.S. map Honshu currents
PACIFIC OCEAN -- Staff Sgt. Blake Landry (left) 36th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, and Lt. Col. Dave Kincaid, 374th Operations Group deputy commander, wait for the signal to deploy a Davis Drifter Buoy from a C-130 Hercules off the eastern coast of Japan, April 29, 2011. The C-130 crew dropped seven buoys off the eastern coast of Japan to help Japanese and American scientists monitor ocean currents. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)
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36th AS helps Japan, U.S. map water currents

Posted 5/2/2011   Updated 5/2/2011 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Katrina R. Menchaca
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

5/2/2011 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- In an effort to help track the movement of seawater along northeastern Honshu, members of the 36th Airlift Squadron, in coordination with the Government of Japan, dropped seven Davis Drifter buoys off the coast of Japan April 29.

The buoys will aid scientists from the Naval Oceanographic Office in developing more accurate models of ocean currents by measuring ocean surface currents and sea surface temperatures.

"This mission, a first of its kind for our 36th Airlift Squadron, represents our continued commitment to flying in support of disaster response operations following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck March 11," said Col. Bill Knight, 374th Airlift Wing vice commander.

The models will be used for a variety of things to include; helping Japanese and U.S. disaster response planners understand where water will flow should there be further radioactive releases from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, as well as determining the safest route for ships operating along the Japanese coastline.

U.S. Forces Japan coordinated with the Government of Japan in planning this operation and will provide data from these buoys to Japanese officials in order to further improve their situational awareness of ocean currents.

The mission follows a busy month of airlift operations at Yokota. In the month following the March 11earthquake that ravaged the coast of Japan, the 36th AS flew 207 missions. They logged more than 347 flight hours and moved more than 860 tons of cargo, 337 passengers, and more than 47,000 gallons of fuel in support of Operation Tomodachi.

"While the need for military airlift has decreased over the past weeks, our aircraft continue to play a key role in supporting the nation of Japan as they begin the long recovery process, said Colonel Knight.

"We are honored to continue to serve in these challenging times. Whether we are flying aid supplies or airdropping scientific buoys, the 374th Airlift Wing will continue to deliver. We remain committed to this mission and will assist to the greatest extent possible."

For the crews that performed this mission, the need for precision in this task was paramount.

"We were asked to put the buoys on target, so that is what we did. We train to airdrop items on target and on time. We train like we fight. These buoys were no exception," said Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Walker, 36th AS loadmaster flight chief.

The buoys had to deploy at a series of predetermined locations to provide the best possible current data. Fortunately, Sergeant Walker said that Yokota aircrews train regularly for similar mission requirements.

"We delivered the buoys through proper mission planning and execution. We don't necessarily train to drop these particular buoys, but we do train utilizing the same procedures, in delivering a multitude of different types of items. Our training and adherence to procedures allowed us to get the mission done," said Sergeant Walker.

At the end of the day, with the buoys deployed and gathering data for both Japanese and U.S. planners, aircrews took satisfaction in their continued role in supporting the people of Japan.

"Personally, I take great pride in doing a mission that serves a greater purpose. This country was handed an enormous challenge in dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami," said Sergeant Walker. "Japan is a friend and ally to our country. I am proud to serve here and even prouder to help the Japanese people in a time of need."

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