Operations ‘Odyssey Dawn’ and ‘Tomodachi’ — Bullets and Blankets (UPDATED)
UPDATE, March 28
Yokota Air Base, just outside Tokyo, has become the nerve center and logistical hub for “Operation Tomodachi,” the U.S. humanitarian assistance efforts to help earthquake/tsunami/nuclear-power-plant-disaster-ravaged Japan.
In the weeks that have followed the disaster, some 1,300 military and government workers have converged on Yokota, and “[s]uddenly, this usually sleepy airlift base has been transformed into the U.S. military equivalent of Grand Central Station” according to the Stars and Stripes.
As expected, U.S. troops are swiftly working their way into the heart of the country’s tsunami-ravaged northeastern coastline by air, sea and land. American servicemembers are now playing a key role in helping weary survivors in communities swallowed whole by the giant tsunami and clearing the subsequent wreckage suffocating major infrastructure.
Many emergency crews are launching from a cluster of 19 U.S. Navy ships and 140 aircraft posted off the devastated northeastern coast, or from Misawa Air Base to the north. More Navy ships, from Yokosuka Naval Base, are delivering fresh water as Japanese workers try to cool nuclear reactors at Fukushima.
In all, roughly 13,300 U.S. military personnel from across the region have been assigned to the round-the-clock Operation Tomodachi effort.
On Saturday, Yokota aircrews began flying out 1 million pounds of water to the tsunami-ravaged north, only a snap-shot of the frenetic 24-hour U.S. military operations under way around Japan.
Read More Here
UPDATE: 20:30 ET, March 26
Read how “[j]ust one year after tensions over U.S. military bases in Japan forced out a prime minister, a relief mission mounted by American soldiers after the earthquake and tsunami is showing a new and welcome face for troops the Japanese have hosted – sometimes grudgingly – for decades.”
Read how “[r]oughly 20,000 U.S. troops have been mobilized in “Operation Tomodachi,” part of the “biggest bilateral humanitarian mission the U.S. has conducted in Japan, its most important ally in Asia” and how it is ramping up fast.
Read how the U.S. military humanitarian mission that got started only two weeks ago has grown to where the U.S. Navy alone has 19 ships, 140 aircraft and 18,282 personnel assigned to assist in the operation, which includes assisting with the nuclear disaster.
But also read how, although the Japanese are generally pro-American, the U.S. – Japan relationship is a very complicated one, and “[e]ven at the shelters where crucial U.S. help is arriving, some Japanese expressed mixed feelings about the troops.”
Read all this and more in the Stars and Stripes.
UPDATE, 10:30 ET, March 22:
The Stars and Stripes reports that the U.S. military does not expect to turn its “voluntary departure” for servicemembers’ families living in Japan into a mandatory evacuation:
The United States has contingency plans to evacuate the roughly 87,000 servicemembers, families and Defense Department civilians in Japan and Okinawa, but Adm. Robert Willard told Stars and Stripes that he didn’t anticipate putting them in motion.
“We absolutely don’t expect it,” Willard said. “In fact, I’m trying to see if the reactor accidents stabilize, so that I can bring our forces and the families back to Yokosuka.
“But we certainly have the plan for the worst and consider those things you would expect of any senior command.”
Willard also said that military-assisted flights for families voluntarily leaving Japan would leave at a pace similar to those that left Tuesday.
Three military-assisted flights have left and two more are on standby today.
There had been predictions of radiological plumes headed for Yokosuka. However, no unhealthy levels of radiation have been reported at Yokosuka which is located approximately 200 miles south of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, albeit “elevated but still not harmful levels were found last week, and Navy officials distributed potassium iodide pills Monday as a precaution against any future danger…”
Read more here
There probably could not be a more dramatic contrast in roles performed by the U.S. military than what we are witnessing off the coast of and in the skies over Libya and what our troops are doing in and around Japan.
As is usual in most international disasters, the United States of America leads the world in providing humanitarian aid to the victims of such disasters. As is also usual, the U.S. military spearheads such relief and military efforts.
A little more than a week ago, immediately after the extent and gravity of the tragedy in Japan became clear— Japan’s worst crisis since World War Two—the United States and its military stepped up to the plate again.
Within a few days, an entire carrier strike group along with other U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine vessels “converged” on Japan and started providing humanitarian assistance to its disaster-stricken people.
Aircraft from the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group flew numerous sorties delivering food, water, clothing, medical supplies and blankets to parts of Japan affected by the earthquake and tsunami.
Off the western coast of Honshu , the USS Essex, USS Harpers Ferry and USS Germantown, with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, began disaster response operations.
U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft, Marine Corps C-130J and KC-130 aircraft, other fixed wing aircraft and helicopters flew from near and far to conduct search and rescue missions, humanitarian operations and other operational and support activities.
Within a couple of days after the already grave disaster, possibly even more serious and ominous problems developed at several of Japan’s nuclear power plants.
While taking reasonable precautions, our military took this latest disaster in stride and continued their missions in the face of an ever-increasing threat from the endangered—and dangerous—nuclear power plants. A mission that now includes providing logistical support to power plant containment and repair efforts.
Over the weekend, the world’s attention was drawn to events taking place in Libya and in the Mediterranean as a coalition of nations and military forces, including the U.S., began preparing to take “all necessary measures” to enforce UN Security Council resolution 1973, that imposed “a ban on all flights in the country’s airspace — a no-fly zone — and tightened sanctions on the Qadhafi regime and its supporters.”
Well, tonight over Libya, as in the previous two nights, our military are carrying out this new mission, called “Odyssey Dawn”—a mission that sadly will involve the loss of life—with the same resolve as they are performing another mission half a world away, “Operation Tomodachi.” Operation “Friend”, however is a mission to save lives and provide aid and comfort to the Japanese people.
Because of Libya, I have neglected to update our military’s continuing efforts in Japan.
This is what our military have been doing “over there” during the weekend:
As some military families in Japan prepared for voluntary evacuations, the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet continued humanitarian aid efforts over the weekend, despite cold weather and aftershocks as strong as 6.1 in magnitude.
Nearly 13,000 U.S. military personnel, along with 20 ships and 140 aircraft, are participating in Operation Tomodachi. As of Sunday evening, 7th Fleet forces had delivered 110 tons of relief supplies, with food, water and warm clothing topping the list of delivery priorities.
A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, delivered 90,000 pounds of humanitarian aid March 20, to Sendai Airport, Japan.
Three more C-17s followed carrying more than 100,000 pounds of donated humanitarian aid to include blankets, food, water and medical supplies to disaster victims.
… To date, Airmen have flown more than 180 missions and transported more than 3.2 million pounds of supplies and equipment in support of Operation Tomodachi.
In case you missed the bit about voluntary evacuations of families out of Japan, the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plants disasters are also directly affecting the families of our military members in Japan, and the military is offering flights out of Japan for families of servicemembers wishing to leave the country.
Two flights have already left and more than 8,000 family members have signed up for such military-assisted flights at U.S. bases in Japan, according to the Stars and Stripes.
Different countries, different objectives, different missions, same military, same courage, steadfastness, and devotion to duty.
Whether you agree with the U.S. involvement in Libya or not, and whatever you think of nuclear power plants, please pray for our servicemembers involved in Operation Odyssey Dawn and please thank our servicemembers involved in Operation Tomodachi.