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Thirteen-month-old Laila Kpodo looks curiously at the camera while her mother is helped by U.S. Customs and military personnel at Travis AFB, Calif. The mother and daughter were part of approximately 240 military family members who returned to the U.S. from Japan following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit the island nation. (Photo by Ken Wright)
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Members voluntarily leave Japan in support of Operation Pacific Passage

Posted 3/22/2011   Updated 3/22/2011 Email story   Print story


by Tech. Sgt. Renni Thornton and Airman 1st Class Michael Battles
60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

3/22/2011 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE,Calif. -- More than 500 service members, dependants and civil service employees, who voluntarily departed Japan, arrived at Travis Air Force Base today aboard charted military flights in support of Operation Pacific Passage.

U.S. Army North officials along with Team Travis members activated the Joint Reception Coordination Center and greeted approximately 330 passengers at 6 a.m. and another 240 at 1 p.m. More than half of them were children and nearly 40 family pets were also aboard the aircraft.

There were tremendous joint efforts by everyone to make this go as smooth as possible, said Lt. Col. U. L. Armstrong, acting defense coordinating officer, Region 9, Oakland, and lead officer for U.S Army North here.

"Hats off to all the joint efforts of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. The wing commander here, Col. James Vechery, and his team provided a good detailed plan as we arrived, enabling us to set up quickly and prepare to assist the families," said Colonel Armstrong.

"The Navy, Air Force and Marines provided Reservists as well to come here and assist," he said.

Upon arrival, passengers received assistance from Travis officials with lodging, transportation, follow-on travel arrangements and any other personal needs.

"We have planned and postured throughout the weekend preparing for a possible flight," said Col. Robert Eatman, 60th Mission Support Group commander. "Many of the passengers seemed tired but they had nothing but good words to say about the teams and the efforts of all the volunteers."

Medical staff from David Grant USAF Medical Center and Naval Air Station Lemoore were on hand throughout the processing stages of the arrival, offering medical care if needed, and more than 100 volunteers were on hand to assist with childcare, luggage and pet care to ease the strain on passengers.

The airlift to Travis AFB is the second U.S. arrival location for these voluntary assisted departure flights after Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which has received flights since Saturday.

3/24/2011 9:16:16 PM ET
My two boys ages 1 and 3 and I arrived at Travis from Yokota AB Japan on 23Mar. I cannot thank this base enough for all that you did for us. The support was so overwhelming it brought tears to my eyes. What a relief to have a person helping only our family and able to entertain my children while I dealt with paperwork etc. And then others to help with luggage. The process was so smooth I can tell a lot of thought went into it. I don't think 10 minutes went by without having someone make sure we had EVERYTHING we needed. A simple 'thank you' doesn't express the gratitude myself and many others feel for all that you do. Please share my appreciation with those who took time out of their day and night to volunteer to help us.
Jenni Deiderich, Yokota AB Japan
3/23/2011 3:23:56 PM ET
Thank you to all at Misawa and Travis for providing this service to our loved ones. In every step my daughter in law and 3 grandbabies have been considered with the utmost care. My son is deployed from Misawa to Iraq and will be back in 30 days but was absent while all of this horror was occurring. Thank you again Misawa and Travis for caring for and caring about my loved ones
Sheila Burns, KY
3/23/2011 9:21:55 AM ET
Thanks for all the hard work you all are doing for our families. My wife and kids should be arriving soon and it's comforting to know they are in good hands. Much Appreciated
Jon, Misawa Jp
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