Members voluntarily leave Japan in support of Operation Pacific Passage

By Tech. Sgt. Renni Thornton and Airman 1st Class Michael Battles

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.