Elmendorf, Yokota teams secure pummeled base

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jeff Loftin
  • 374th Airlift Wing-Deployed
Despite the devastation of Typhoon Pongsona, which pummeled the island of Guam Dec. 8, force protection remained a priority here as base officials called for help.

Answering that call were teams of security forces members from Yokota Air Base, Japan, and Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.

"We heard there was some vandalism and theft of private property," said Tech. Sgt. David Byrd, one of 13 who deployed from Elmendorf. "We're concentrating on bringing back some law and order."

Since looting often follows natural disasters, base officials went on the offensive organizing walking and bike patrols in the housing areas, and patrols along the fence lines.

"They were manning a lot of other posts because of the threat of people coming on and looting," said Master Sgt. Kevin Evert, deployed here from Yokota to help with security. "The big concentration was in the housing areas. There were a couple of areas on the fence line that were damaged, but I think [the local civil engineers] got those all back up pretty quickly."

With the extra patrols on base protecting Andersen's assets, members of Andersen's security forces squadron were able to help the base recover. "We're working day and night on 12-hour shifts," said Evert.

"Yesterday was the first time I got to see my room," said Staff Sgt. Fred Medina, a member of the Yokota team. "We go to work when it is dark and come home when it's dark. Since the electricity has been off, yesterday, our day off, was the first time I really got to see it."

All the hard work is apparently paying off, despite a few cases of gasoline theft, most of incidents the teams responded to have been minor, according to Evert, and he hopes it stays that way.

The folks from Yokota and Elmendorf are not complaining about the work.

"I think we're here to help them out, so I feel pretty good about it," said Medina.

"They've definitely helped us out with the manning," said Staff Sgt. John Ward, of the 36th SFS. "With all the additional posting we've been very busy."

The teams from Yokota and Elmendorf were glad to lend a hand.

"We jumped at the chance," said Evert. "Anytime you can go on a humanitarian-type mission you feel like you're doing something good. It was obvious we were needed. When we flew in, we saw all the buildings blown down and cars flipped over. It was a mess. We were shocked at how much damage there was."

"It's kind of unbelievable what we've seen here," said Staff Sgt. Randall Moomey, of the Elmendorf group. "The hangars are all torn up so bad you can pretty much see right through them. As you go down south, you see cement poles where houses used to be. They're just gone!"

Both teams literally deployed within hours of being notified. Despite the approaching holiday season, "there was no resistance," said Evert.

"I'm very proud of the guys," said Master Sgt. Ames, the team leader for the Elmendorf group. "These guys were notified about 11 a.m. and by 11 p.m. they were on a bus to the airport.

"They had to celebrate Christmas early, one had to get married, and they all had to get ready very quickly," Ames said. "The guys never complained once. I've never been associated with a better group of people."

One member of the Elmendorf team literally rushed from the altar to the aircraft to support the humanitarian mission here.

"It's not about me," said Staff Sgt. Brent Johnson. "Duty calls. The way I've done it (throughout) my career is what must come first, comes first and everything else takes a back seat."

He said his new bride, Miky, was disappointed by the quick exchange of vows.

"We had set a date for Dec. 31 and were looking forward to that," he said. "She was very understanding about having to leave at a moments notice. She is on a contingency team as well."

Ames said that Johnson was given the option of staying behind, but opted to go with his team to support the people of Guam. "That says a lot about the dedication of him and his wife," said Ames.

The teams will continue to assist in security and cleanup at Andersen and may assist in the island communities in the coming days. Both teams have resigned themselves to stay as long as they are needed. (Courtesy of Pacific Air Forces News Service)