NEWS | Sept. 4, 2019

U.S. Army Garrison Japan Works with Japanese Emergency Services during Disaster Drill

By Wendy Brown U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs

CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- Had the Sagamihara City Disaster Drill been a real disaster, it would have been a great example of how several incidents can unfold at once.

The drill included fires, injured people trapped in buildings and thrown from overturned vehicles, power lines in need of restoration, a chemical leak, downed trees and more. In wave after wave of disaster scenarios, however, Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, U.S. Army and Japan Ground and Air Self-Defense Force rescue personnel demonstrated their capabilities to handle it all.

"There are great benefits to doing this together," said Col. Thomas Matelski, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan. "The more we work together, the more trust there is, and so when disaster strikes, if it ever happens, or when it happens, we know that we can trust each other and that we'll be there together."

The drill took place Sept. 1 on an area of returned land next to Sagami General Depot in Sagamihara City, and it included more than 100 organizations and nearly 2,000 participants. City officials invited members of the public to watch the drill and visit display tents and trucks aimed at helping people prepare for disasters.

For example, two trucks featured tables and chairs welded to platforms that mimicked levels of earthquake intensities so people could get a feel for what they might experience during a real earthquake.

Matelski said allowing the public to view the drill helps prepare them for real disasters.

"The public needs to see our government in action, working together … to see what to expect when disaster strikes," Matelski said. "They got to see that displayed for them today."

Matelski watched the drill with Lt. Col. Ernest Meadows, the garrison's director of emergency services; Sgt. Maj. Kyle Clutter, assigned to the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan; and William Maxwell, the garrison's safety specialist.

The U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan participated by landing a Black Hawk helicopter on a field next to the main staging area so members of the Sagamihara City Fire Department's special rescue team could practice delivering a simulated casualty and bringing back supplies.

In addition, firefighters with USAG Japan Fire and Emergency Services conducted an operation where they rescued two simulated injured personnel from a collapsed building.

Takanori Saito, a firefighter with USAG Japan Fire and Emergency Services, said the operation required them to use technical rope and rescue techniques. In addition, they used a ladder to help slide the simulated casualties down from the building on a litter.

"This type of exercise is very beneficial for us to facilitate an interaction with other organizations so that we can work more smoothly and effectively," Saito said.

Saito said he wants everyone to know the department prepares for disasters every day.

"I hope it doesn't happen, any kind of disaster, but we are ready for any kind of disaster. That's for sure," Saito said.

Shinichi Arima, chief of the crisis/emergency response management office of Sagamihara City, said officials based the drill on the city's regional disaster prevention plan, which helps ensure that area personnel implement disaster emergency measures promptly and smoothly during large natural disasters.

A key component of the plan is cooperation among various emergency rescue organizations, Arima said.

Mayor Kentaro Motomura of Sagamihara City said the city is ready to cooperate with the Army in case of a disaster.

There are three U.S. military bases in the city and there is a mutual agreement for disaster preparedness and response with USAG Japan, Motomura said.

"Today, the commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan and his team were able to participate in the exercise and I think that we were able to confirm the effort that Sagamihara City and the U.S. Army in Japan have working toward," Motomura said. "I believe we can strengthen our relationship even more by working closely together."

Matelski said it is important for the Army to participate in drills like this one because the Army is part of the community in Japan.

"When disaster happens, it will happen to us, and our coordinated actions will alleviate suffering and help lives," Matelski said.