OKINAWA, Japan - Marines, sailors and soldiers with Logistics Combat Element, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Forward), worked with Japan Self-Defense Force personnel completing a variety of missions to aid the Japanese from March 18 to April 6.
The LCE, working from Sendai Airport, provided logistical support for Joint Support Force Japan. JSF-J, comprised of Japan and U.S. forces, oversaw the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions of Operation Tomodachi in coordination with the Government of Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Honshu, March 11.
Sendai Airport was inoperable, covered with the mud, debris and rubble left behind after a wall of water swept over the area. By March 18, LCE troops had the airport cleaned and repaired, allowing it to become a hub for the distribution of relief supplies.
Clearing the airport for use allowed 141 air missions to be flown into Sendai Airport.
“We received different [relief] supplies here almost daily. We received water and different types of clothing, food, toys, blankets and hygiene items,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Martin, officer-in-charge, Arrival Departure Air Control Group, LCE. “We basically served as the logistics hub, able to push out different supplies to the affected areas.”
Most of the supplies were flown directly into the recently cleared airport where they were staged before being pushed further into the affected areas.
“We were able to get 95% of our supplies from Okinawa, from flights out of [Marine Corps Air Station] Futenma, straight into Sendai,” said Master Sgt. Tarik Inge, distribution liaison cell staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, LCE.
The LCE also supported convoy supply operations delivering supplies to the surrounding areas. The JSDF took the lead on these supply operations, coordinating with the LCE to plan and support the convoys.
“The Japanese would communicate to us what they needed, and where they wanted it, and we would push it out,” said Martin. “Whatever we did, we always had a Japanese escort. They would take the lead, and we would support them.”
Convoys delivered 45,200 gallons of water, a half ton of rice, one ton of hygiene kits, one ton of toys, 350 barrels of diesel fuel and 396 barrels of kerosene. The convoys also delivered eight shower facilities and coordinated with the Air Combat Element to install the showers in camps where people displaced by the disaster had gathered.
In addition to distributing supplies, LCE service members participated in debris clearing and other humanitarian assistance operations.
They recovered 4,800 vehicles, 12 aircraft and seven helicopters. They helped clean up two schools to be used as camps for people left homeless by the disaster and helped clear out other schools in preparation for Japanese school children to return to school in coming months. In all, they helped remove some 2.5 million cubic feet of mud and debris.
“The school cleaning mission was very important. We pushed out as many Marines as we could daily with shovels ... to shovel out mud and interact with the local people,” said Martin. “We worked on schools in Ishinomaki, Onagawa and Minota trying to get them back on their feet.”
The LCE missions were a joint effort among its elements: Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force; the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, based at Sagami Depot, Japan, and Task Force Fuji elements, Inge said.
“It went beyond contributing what we do for our jobs every day,” Inge said of the myriad missions completed by the Marines, sailors and soldiers of the LCE.
The LCE was a key player in Operation Tomodachi, providing the command and control necessary for the successful completion of numerous missions, according to Maj. Rob Warfield, current operations chief, G-4, 3rd MEB (Fwd).