NAF Misawa Air Terminal Meets Challenge of Supporting Operation Tomodachi

Story Number: NNS110331-10Release Date: 3/31/2011 6:02:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devon Dow, Naval Air Facility Misawa Public Affairs

NAVAL AIR FACILITY MISAWA, Japan (NNS) -- Naval Air Facility Misawa's (NAFM) air terminal has provided unprecedented support according to their department head, March 31.

Since a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a massive tsunami that devastated Japan's northeastern seaboard March 11, daily operations at the terminal have been anything but normal.

In the month of March, the 12-man team has been responsible for the safe transit of more than 135 aircraft, 585,000 pounds of cargo and 650 passengers. These numbers dwarf the terminal's entire 2010 output of 163 aircraft, 74,066 pounds of cargo and 434 passengers.

"From a leadership standpoint it is amazing how flexible these guys are at a moments notice," said Lt. Cmdr. Frank Lee, NAFM operations officer. "Navy-wide, everyone is pulling together, but for these guys, this is where the rubber meets the road. There have been no complaints, only smiles on their faces. Like any true Sailor, these guys love to be busy and want to show the rating expertise and they have."

The terminal, which traditionally supports transient aircraft operations and detachments at NAFM, has since turned into a critical hub for squadrons supporting Operation Tomodachi.

Local and international media transit from NAFM out to the ships to document Navy relief missions and humanitarian aid is constantly enroute or outbound from the terminal.

The crew adjusted it's working hours March 11, to better accommodate the increased air traffic and have remained vigilant, showing the capabilities of NAFM in Japan's time of need.

"These guys just don't want to say no when it comes to hard work," said Lee, a native of Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.

Squadron commanding officers and leadership across the board praise the hard work of the crew and their eagerness to work.

"These guys are all stars," said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Andrew Thomasson, a Witchita, Kan. native and leading chief operations officer at NAFM. "I can't think of a better assignment than to be working here with these guys."

With all of their contributions on the flight line, one moment stands out to Thomasson. Upon hearing about food shortage issues at a local child center, the aircrew donated more than $400 dollars worth of food for the center.

"Here these guys are working 14-to-16 hour days and still find the time to give to the local community. This is the character of these guys we are dealing with at NAFM," said Thomasson. "The first class leadership has done an outstanding job forming a great game plan at the terminal. I could not be more proud to be their chief."

Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Justin Landers, a shift supervisor at the NAFM terminal said the workload has been important to supporting Operation Tomodachi and that he is impressed with how the crew stepped up.

"The guys here are giving 100 percent. It is good to know we are doing our part," said Landers, an El Paso, Texas native. "All the guys here have stepped up and have been doing a great job getting the flights in and off the air ramp and supporting each other. It's been a great experience for all of us."

Aviation's Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Clint Medley from Nashville, Tenn. and Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class Mike Pierce from Columbia, Mo. are relatively new to the aircrew. Both having arrived to NAFM at the beginning of the year, they did not anticipate the terminal's recent attention and air traffic, but welcomed the opportunity.

"It has been non-stop this month, but I work with a great group of guys and they helped us both integrate into the system here," said Medley. "It has been a lot of hard work, but we are getting the job done, that is what is important."

"It has been a high pace, no denying that, but its all for a good cause," said Pierce. "We are in a great location to assist aircraft to get relief aid to hard hit areas in Japan, I'm glad we can be of service."

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A Sailor loads cargo onto an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter assigned to Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14.
110328-N-VA590-027 NAVAL AIR FACILITY MISAWA, Japan (March 28, 2011) Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Jason Williams, from Gary, Ind., loads cargo onto an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter assigned to Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14. HM-14 is embarked aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) supporting Operation Tomodachi. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jose Lopez, Jr.)
March 29, 2011
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