U.S. forces support Japanese earthquake drill

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jason Medina
  • U.S. Forces Japan Public Affairs
U.S. military forces based in Japan cooperated with Japanese officials in a major earthquake disaster response exercise here Sept. 1.

The annual drill was based on a large-scale earthquake in the Tokyo area and helped Japanese government officials examine national, regional and local levels of readiness.

U.S. forces used the experience to test processes and communication links that would be used in the event of an actual crisis.

U.S. Naval Forces Japan provided the USS Gary to transport Japanese citizens from Tokyo Bay to Yokosuka Naval Base, the frigate's homeport, similar to noncombatant evacuation operations. NEOs evacuate civilian personnel who may be at risk due to events such as regional hostilities or natural disasters.

"Because there's no cookie-cutter approach to disaster relief, we focused on the fundamentals," said U.S. Army Maj. Michael Bentley, director of the Bilateral-Joint Operations Coordination Center-Yokota. "We want to be as prepared as possible to help the government of Japan respond to a spectrum of scenarios, to include natural disasters."

A UH-60 Black Hawk crew from Camp Zama-based U.S. Army Japan delivered emergency medical supplies to Japanese command and logistics sites in Tokyo. Helicopters offer a unique option to deliver rescue teams and equipment to areas that may be inaccessible to ground vehicles.

Equipped with a 50 kilowatt radio transmission tower, American Forces Network-Tokyo aired emergency announcements from Yokota so U.S. citizens residing in the Tokyo area -- U.S government employees, business people, students and tourists -- could receive instructions and updates in English. The network's principal audience is the roughly 300,000 U.S. military members, civilian employees, and family members stationed throughout Japan.

"This exercise is foundational to what we do here," said Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, commander of 5th Air Force and U.S. Forces, Japan. "An earthquake of this magnitude would be disastrous in a major metropolitan area such as Tokyo, and we're now more ready to assist the government of Japan in the relief effort."

U.S. forces have a strong disaster response record in the region. Yokota Air Base Airmen delivered 18,000 pounds of supplies to Japanese response teams after an earthquake in Niigata Prefecture in 2004, and U.S. servicemembers delivered almost 5,000 tons of relief supplies and treated more than 2,200 patients in Southeast Asia after the devastating tsunami the same year.

This year marks the most extensive level of U.S. participation in the drill.