NEWS | March 1, 2018

Always Prepare: Kadena Opens Gates to Chatan during Tsunami Exercise

By Senior Airman Omari Bernard 18th Wing Public Affairs

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Okinawan and military first responders hosted a bilateral natural disaster exercise at Kadena Air Base Feb. 28, 2018, to test and improve evacuation procedures between members of Team Kadena and the local community.

Approximately 50 residents participated in a simulated evacuation of Chatan Town. In the event of a tsunami, residents from low-elevation areas near the Sunabe Seawall evacuate to higher ground through the base.

The drill began with a simulated tsunami notification; the sounding of coastal tsunami alarms and wide-spread alert notifications sent to mobile phones.

"The drill prepares both military members and Okinawan citizens for tsunamis,” said Master Sgt. David Izaguirre, 18th Security Forces response force leader. “The 18th Security Forces supports citizens during a tsunami by providing expedited entry onto Kadena AB and escort personnel to an area that provides relief from the disaster to minimize chaos.”

During the drill, Defenders from the 18th SFS provided a route to evacuees as they made their way from Gate One to the designated recovery zone at Marek Field Park, where medical teams from the 18th Medical Group and local communities stood by to provide care.

In 2011 the Tohoku earthquake that occurred off the coast of Japan caused massive waves that were recorded up to 40.5 meters (133ft) high. The following tsunami that struck claimed thousands of lives. Marek Park is more than 133 feet above sea level making it the ideal evacuation location for Chatan residents.

“Marek Park is a high point on Kadena that serves as a place to get away from a wave caused by an earthquake,” Izaguirre said. “Marek Park and everything west of it is higher than 133 feet above sea level. Additionally, Marek Park is a convenient area to situate large crowds of personnel.”

The evacuation drill ended with closing remarks from Kamiyama Masakatsu, Chatan Town deputy mayor and U.S. Air Force Col. Gilbert Eddy, 18th Force Support Squadron commander.

“This represents the fourth opportunity since 2015 we’ve had to practice for a tsunami that may happen in Chatan,” Eddy said. “We will do our best to continue to work with the military and civilian authorities to ensure we can support Chatan as well as possible.”

Exercises like the tsunami drill present an opportunity for both the military and civilian authorities of Okinawa to partner with one another in an effort to prepare for not only a tsunami, but other natural disasters as well.

“We stand committed and ready to provide support for the safety of our Okinawan families and friends,” Eddy said. “This exercise reinforces our pledge to work together to solve areas of concern and to maintain the spirit of cooperation with our hosts.”