USTRANSCOM members move DOD personnel from Japan|
by Bob Fehringer
U.S. Transportation Command
4/15/2011 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- More than 7,500 Department of Defense personnel and family members, and 400 of their pets, were evacuated from Japan following natural disasters in March.
The evacuation was made possible through the combined efforts of the U.S. Transportation Command, Air Mobility Command, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, and Military Sealift Command.
Right after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Pacific Command notified the USTRANSCOM Fusion Center, which coordinated the evacuation efforts.
"We went into ... 24-hour operation immediately in line with Pacific Command to support them," said Marine Corps Col. Tom Bruno, the Pacific Command branch chief in the USTRANSCOM Fusion Center. "The State Department authorized a voluntary departure of Defense Department and Department of State personnel. After that came the request for military assistance, and we got real busy."
Army Maj. Sid Welch, an action officer in the PACOM branch, explained how the whole plan came together.
"Part of the process is defining what the problem is," Major Welch said. "So we had a series of joint-planning team sessions (in which) we brought the entire Fusion Center team together."
The joint-planning team consists of members from all areas of USTRANSCOM and the component commands, he said. With the wide variety of skill sets, communication was the key to mission success.
"Once everyone is on the same sheet of music they understand what the problem is," Colonel Bruno said. "Then everyone leaves and has a piece of that pie. We did that every day for a good period of time when that first started."
Colonel Bruno explained that in addition to the humanitarian-disaster relief, as well as the supplies and equipment that USTRANSCOM was moving into Japan, the team had to come up with a way to get people out of the country with assets already in use.
"So that began a massive airlift phase (in which) commercial and military assets were used to move American citizens, our normal commercial partners that USTRANSCOM does business with every day," Colonel Bruno said. "We sent our requirements to AMC. They looked at our requirements to see how they could best fill that movement.
"When it comes to passengers, the most efficient way to move them is not on military assets," Colonel Bruno continued. "It's on the commercial airline business."
To start this process, AMC officials contact the USTRANSCOM acquisition directorate to request contracts to move a certain number of passengers over a specific time frame, Major Welch said. Then, acquisition officials begin contracting discussions with commercial carriers.
"We contract for the commercial airlines to support the Civil Reserve Air Fleet," said Sandy Halama, the chief of the USTRANSCOM acquisition directorate contract airlift division. "During times of surge or extra airlift, we buy missions throughout the year to move the passengers and troops on full-plane load charters.
"In the expansion branch ... the additional missions that are required throughout the year are purchased against those contracts," Ms. Halama continued. "So when this situation occurred and the J3 and command needed additional airlift to support the evacuation, they turned to the CRAF contract for that surge capability."
That surge in flight requests is being handled by both charter carriers and scheduled-service carriers, the latter of which doesn't normally fly for the military in peacetime.
"(The charter carriers) only have a finite amount of planes, and so the challenge comes in getting those scheduled-service carriers to augment the charter carriers and be able to do all of our business," Ms. Halama said.
Twenty-six missions were flown in support evacuation.