Dependents of American military personnel living in Japan have been authorized to voluntarily depart the country for select "safe havens" in the United States. The Department of Defense made this determination on March 17, for dependents living in select areas of Japan. Dependents are advised to check with their command's ombudsman for further information.
Several hundred dependents have departed from Misawa Air Base and Naval Air Field Atsugi. Their destinations in the United States are SeaTac Airport in Washington State and Travis Air Force Base in California. From their, they will be assisted on to final destinations. This is intended to be a temporary relocation, and the DoD is paying for those authorized to depart.
Not all the dependents were able to make the long flight to the United States. Eight military dependents who were 34 weeks pregnant or more were not medically cleared to fly. The eight women were flown to Okinawa. The medical condition was assessed at the Naval Hospital and they were then taken to Westpac Lodge at Camp Foster. Whether all of these women deliver on Okinawa depends on the length of the voluntary departure authorization which has not yet been terminated.
The Navy's Seventh Fleet is fully at sea for the first time in recent memory. Both the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and the USS Lassen put to sea from their home port of Yokosuka despite both having been pier side for scheduled maintenance work. USS Washington has a number of contractors aboard and work continues while the ship is at sea. Lassen is moving to the Japanese port of Sasebo where its work will be continued.
Stars & Stripes interviewed Adm. Robert Willard, the head of U.S. Pacific Command on March 22. He told the reporter that he did not foresee a mandatory evacuation from Japan for either dependents or military personnel. The story also states that about 9,000 dependents have signed up for the voluntary departure program.
Carrier Air Wing 5, the combat arm of the USS George Washington, has relocated to Anderson Air Force Base on Guam to make room for other aircraft at Naval Air Field Atsugi. The incoming aircraft will be bringing relief supplies, search and rescue capabilities and other needed personnel and capacity for U.S. assistance efforts in the earthquake and tsunami stricken regions of Japan.
The U.S. Seventh Fleet remains at the heart of the assistance efforts in Japan. Nineteen ships, 140 aircraft and helicopters and nearly 15,000 sailors and Marines are involved.
Upstate New York resident Charles Simmins brings 30 years of accounting and finance experience and a keen interest in military affairs to the news of the day. His years of experience working with the personnel of the Secretary of Defense's New Media activity on Bloggers' Roundtables provide insights often overlooked by other reporters.