News: MCAS Futenma secures station before typhoon
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, Japan - When typhoons approach Okinawa, most Marines grab some Meals, Ready To Eat, head to the barracks and batten down the hatches.
For Marine Corps Air Station Futenma personnel, typhoon warnings carry a whole different meaning. An approaching typhoon means time spent preparing and securing the station and its valuable aircraft.
A typhoon is a strong tropical cyclone, which is a low-pressure system over tropical or subtropical waters with organized convection and definite cyclonic surface wind circulation, according to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. A typhoon is characterized by heavy winds and rains, which leave a path of destruction in its wake.
Every possible precaution is taken at the station to fully prepare for a typhoon.
“We treat every destructive weather situation as a worst-case scenario because the preparation usually takes a number of days to complete,” said Maj. Geoffrey Baum, airfield operations officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, MCAS Futenma. “If we don’t start early and plan for the worst, we could end up risking equipment, facilities or lives.”
Air traffic control personnel begin to cancel flights during the projected time of impact as the typhoon gets closer to the island.
“The operational units and staff of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing work collectively to determine courses of action and timelines for (the cessation of) squadron operations,” said Baum. “The MAW then notifies MCAS Futenma of its plans. It really depends on (current) missions, but preparations begin when the storm is a few days out.”
The airspace above the station is not the only dangerous area during a typhoon. At the air traffic control tower, Marines expediently prepare the station for potentially destructive weather.
“One of the steps in the process of securing the ATC tower is to secure all electronics to prevent damage from water,” said Stephen C. Negahnquet, the air traffic control training and standardization officer with airfield operations, H&HS, MCAS Futenma. “We also put storm shutters over the tower’s windows and over the radar.”
Limited space and the size of some aircraft require the station to send some assets to areas not in the path of the typhoon.
“The air station has a limited number of hangars capable of storing KC-130J Super Hercules cargo aircraft during a typhoon and, at times, some hangars are undergoing maintenance, which prevents their use,” said Baum. “(Aircraft) which are leaving will typically fly off within the final 24 to 48 hours before the storm hits the island.”
No aircraft can land once the typhoon enters within a certain range of the air station, but some Marines remain on watch during destructive weather.
“Once we cross into tropical cyclone condition of readiness 1 caution, the airfield closes,” said Baum. “However, our weather observers and forecasters stay on duty.”
Other destructive weather patterns require preventative plans of action to be in place as well.
“When dealing with flooding, we ensure the units have sand bags and access to sand,” said Staff Sgt. Felicia C. Contreras, a logistics chief with installation logistics and services, H&HS. “We also provide a dumping point for wood and metal, which helps the units and station prepare.”
Mission accomplishment and safety are at the forefront of planning and executing preparations during any weather condition.
“Safety is a primary concern, but assuring our tenant units can continue to achieve their respective missions is the most important consideration,” said Baum. “Real-world missions are ongoing and in most cases cannot afford to be put on hold. After the weather passes, we rapidly resume our mission in support of III Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Installations Pacific and other agencies.”
Date Posted:07.05.2012 21:49
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