Host communities, US sign evacuation plan
CAMP FOSTER — Ginowan City Mayor Atsushi Sakima, Chatan Town Mayor Masaharu Noguni and Maj. Gen. Peter J. Talleri signed the Local Implementation Agreement in front of building 1 at Camp Foster Nov. 5.
The agreement allows local residents access to evacuation routes through Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and Camp Foster in the event of a natural disaster.
“With our signatures on this Local Implementation Agreement, we stand prepared to commemorate the Marine Corps’ partnership with two host communities, Ginowan City and Chatan Town,” said Talleri, the commanding general of Marine Corps Installations Pacific and Marine Corps Base Camp Butler.
The need for the agreement was reinforced by the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami that occurred March 11, 2011, and devastated much of Japan’s eastern coast. The natural disaster demonstrated that the U.S. installations are much more than military bases. They are also platforms for providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, according to Talleri. The bases will only be successful as response platforms if the U.S. and Japan work together.
“Disaster preparedness is everyone’s responsibility,” said Talleri. “This is the lesson we learned on March 11, 2011, when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck and caused a tsunami and great damage. That changed how we view our installations and our future in Japan.”
While this agreement addresses Ginowan City and Chatan Town directly, it is important for the entire Okinawa Prefecture.
“There are approximately 12,000 residents in the west coast area of Chatan Town,” said Noguni. “This area is visited by tourists as well as other foreigners. In the spirit of protecting the lives of the residents, we have worked together to develop a disaster plan that works.”
After the signing, citizens of Ginowan City and Chatan Town, including children from local day care centers, participated in an evacuation drill, using one of the routes from the agreement. The participants walked onto Camp Foster through gate 5, the commissary gate, and exited the base on higher ground through gate 6, also known as the legion gate.
It is very important that Chatan Town, Ginowan City and the U.S. military are united and work together to ensure disaster preparedness, according to Sakima.
“Our citizens are surrounded by water here on Okinawa,” said Sakima. “It is important for us to secure an evacuation route to higher ground in case of a tsunami, and this agreement allows for that.”
The agreement helps ensure the safety of citizens and strengthens the relationship between Japan and the U.S.
“We strive to be contributing members to the local communities in which we live,” said Talleri. “We do all we can to enhance the trust and confidence of our Okinawa hosts and to nurture our good relationships.
“You may be assured that the Marine Corps is committed to doing everything we can to be prepared to respond in the event of a natural disaster,” said Talleri. “Not only are we allies, but we are partners, friends and neighbors. Identifying programs and solutions to issues of mutual interest is a sign of our strength and unity and this agreement serves to reinforce our commitment to cooperation.”