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459th Airmen deliver important COVID tests on Christmas Eve

A small prop plane takes off from a military runway.

A C-12J Huron, assigned to the 459th Airlift Squadron, performs touch-and-go flight patterns June 14, 2016 at Yokota Air Base, Japan. The C-12J is a twin turboprop aircraft used for cargo and passenger airlift and aeromedical evacuations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe/Released)

A top-down graphic of Japan with a bright line marking a flight path.

A sample flight path between Yokota Air Base and Kadena Air Base, used in mission planning by the 459th Airlift Squadron, which performed a rapid airlift mission for high-priority COVID-19 test samples on December 24, 2021, at Yokota Air Base, Japan. The 459th uses the C-12J Heron, a twin turboprop aircraft used for cargo and passenger airlift and aeromedical evacuations. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Ryan Lackey)


Airmen from the 459th Airlift Squadron executed a high-priority, short notice request from the Japanese Government to help deliver 217 COVID-19 test samples from U.S. Marine Corps Camp Hansen, Okinawa, to U.S. Army Camp Zama, Kanagawa prefecture, Dec. 24, 2021.

A C-12J Huron flew from Yokota Air Base to Kadena Air Base, loaded the cargo, and returned in time for ground transport to deliver it to the Camp Zama medical laboratory for next day testing.

“We received the call to execute this mission on Dec. 23 and immediately set out to prep the crew, aircraft and flight line,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Walters, 459th AS director of operations. “We’ve had considerable practice in the safe handling similar cargos around the Kanto region over the past 18 months, so the short notice didn’t matter, as we’re always ready to perform operational support airlift, holiday or not.”

It took an approximate 36 hours from the initial request to the delivery of the samples at the Camp Zama medical laboratory, made possible by efficient communication and coordination between members from U.S. Marine Expeditionary Forces, U.S. Air Forces, and Japanese allied partners.

“It’s just the latest example of how 459th Airmen are ready to complete the rapid airlift mission, no matter what,” said Walters.

The 374th Airlift Wing is committed to the support of mission partners and allies, using its rapid airlift capabilities to not only detour adversaries, but to care for the Japanese community and U.S. forces stationed in Japan.