Community, Marines join together for evacuation drill

Community, Marines join together for evacuation drill

by Lance Cpl. Pete Sanders
Okinawa Marine Staff

Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan -- Community and service members participated in a tsunami evacuation drill Feb. 22 through Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The drill was part of a joint effort by local and U.S. military officials to minimize the effects from a potential tsunami landfall event along the shores of Okinawa.

Although similar drills have taken place for civilians living on the island, this is the first time using the finalized blueprint involving both local community and service members, according to Col. James G. Flynn, the commanding officer of MCAS Futenma, Marine Corps Installations Pacific.

“We’ve been working out the details and have put them into place today,” said Flynn. “It’s good to have (the rapport) that allows us to work together and carry out a strategy that saves lives.”

The evacuation plan took over a year and a half to perfect, but the results address mutual concerns for safety, according to Flynn.

Constituents from eight districts took part in the mock evacuation, according to Masanori Matsugawa, the deputy mayor for Ginowan City.

For the exercise, community members gathered at Futenma’s Gate 1 before walking with participating Marines around the flight line to a higher elevation at Gate 3.

Exercises like this are a necessary way to prepare for potential disasters, according to Matsugawa.

“We signed a (disaster response) agreement last year,” said Matsugawa. “As city officials, this is a good way to see our route in action and ensure it is practical and safe.”

Although few like to think about nature’s wrath, safety depends on considering it, according to Atsushi Sakima, the mayor of Ginowan.

“It is unfortunate, but we must prepare for the potential of natural disaster,” said Sakima. “If we know what to do and are ready, we can act fast and prevent injury and death. Our goal is zero injured or dead.”

MCAS Futenma is a prime evacuation route, according to Sakima.

“The base is close to the middle (of Ginowan), which makes it quickly accessible to much of the area,” said Sakima.

Cooperative evacuation drills demonstrate the U.S. military’s commitment to the safety of community members, according to Maj. Joe L. Moore, the operations officer for MCAS Futenma.

“This is a perfect opportunity to show our positive impact on our community,” said Moore. “Our goal is to be as productive in our surrounding community as possible.”

The evacuation plan is an accurate demonstration of the U.S. will to help others and be a productive part of the community, according to Moore.

“Having a plan that lets us share (Futenma’s) higher ground allows all of us to be safe,” said Moore. “It also shows we’re good neighbors and want to help. We wouldn’t feel right keeping this area from the community.”

The hope is that future evacuation drills will be carried out in a similar fashion, according to Flynn.

“I was just talking with the mayor,” said Flynn. “They’ve had drills up to, and just into, our gate on Oyama, and we’ve had our own drills. Now that we have a blueprint and know it’s practical, we plan on having a minimum of two (combined drills) per year.”

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