News: MCAS Futenma proves critical during III MEF HA/DR effort
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma has proven to be a critical asset in III Marine Expeditionary Force’s support to the humanitarian assistance/disaster relief efforts on mainland Japan following the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami which took place March 11, according to the station’s commanding officer Col. Dale M. Smith.
“MCAS Futenma is and remains strategically significant in its posturing aboard Okinawa,” Smith said. “(It) exists to serve the needs of both the U.S. and Japan, regardless of circumstance, whether it is daily training requirements or desperately needed humanitarian assistance operations.”
Leadership within III MEF and Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler has recently stressed the importance of the air station in facilitating III MEF operations on the mainland. The close proximity of Marine Corps aviation assets on Okinawa has allowed Marines to rapidly deploy critically-needed supplies and aid to support the relief effort.
Not only is its location important, but, according to Smith, the air station’s size and structure has been invaluable in facilitating support of the humanitarian assistance efforts.
“Many of the aircraft were so laden with supplies and equipment, the criticality of Futenma’s 9,000-foot runway enabling their safe departures was not only readily apparent, but absolutely essential,” he said.
On March 12, III MEF began sending command and control elements, staff assistance, KC-130J Super Hercules cargo aircraft, and CH-46E Sea Knight transport helicopters from MCAS Futenma to provide assistance.
The intent behind sending the aircraft to the mainland from MCAS Futenma was to “provide the greatest flexibility of options while conducting humanitarian assistance and relief operations,” said Lt. Col. Damien M. Marsh, commanding officer of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF, the unit which provided the CH-46Es.
The air station, which was built in 1945, has been used to deploy aircraft in past humanitarian assistance operations, such as Operation Unified Assistance, when III MEF sent elements in support of the relief effort following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.
The current military assistance operation, known as Operation Tomodachi, was named by the Japanese and means “friendship.”
Date Posted:03.17.2011 20:23
Location:MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, JP
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