By Staff Sgt. David Chapman, 5th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentMarch 23, 2011
SEATTLE-The air was abuzz with activity as over 900 family members passed through the Joint Reception Coordination Center at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from Japan, March 22, as part of Operation Pacific Passage.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord was represented by a team of about 45 Soldiers, Airmen and civilians, who provided everything from reception and child care to airline ticketing and lodging to the arriving families. Participating Soldiers came from Madigan Army Medical Center; 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment; and 1st Joint Mobilization Brigade, all helping make sure that tired families made it safely off the plane, to the in-processing area and to lodging or flights with all of their belongings and pets.
The reception center welcomed weary travelers escaping the turmoil following the earth quake and tsunami that devastated the country early this month. Families were given food and beverages while being processed into the system and given an opportunity to rest after the long flight.
The JRCC also provided resources to allow children a safe area to play and medical personnel to treat any illnesses that should arise during the travel process.
"Mostly we have seen some runny noses and coughs, someone had low blood sugar, but nothing serious," said Capt. James Brown, Madigan Army Medical System. "If we are not busy then it's a good thing."
The JBLM team provided all manner of support to the U.S. Army North-led operation, rounding out a joint organization that made sure that families who arrived in Seattle had the tickets they needed to move on to their chosen destination, or to a safe and comfortable place to sleep for the night until a flight could be arranged. Local hotel chains also stepped up to assist, blocking rooms for use by the families and providing shuttle service to and from the airport.
"We are here to interface with the families and to deliver an itinerary for onward travel to those going to their safe haven location. The families coming in are tired, but amazingly resilient," said Lt. Col. Richard Whitaker, 1st Joint Mobilization Bde, deputy commander, who was directing JBLM support at the airport. "What we do here is very similar to what we do at JBLM. We receive Soldiers and help them to find lodging and with flights. So we are just serving a different population. The key here is we are doing it in a joint environment."
As the work load started to rise corrections were made to the system, all that mattered to the team was the families could move easily on to their next location.
"The measure of our success is whether the families feel as if they have been treated well and that they can arrive at their chosen destination as quickly as they can," said Lt. Col. Randy Martin, JRCC Public Affairs Officer.
Those arriving from Japan shared a generally common thought relief to be somewhere familiar in such a difficult time.
"From what I have heard from families over and over again is that they are encouraged to see this team of military and civilians coming together to help them," said Chaplain (Capt) Robert Kinnune, JBLM Garrison chaplains team. "Many feel they can now breathe a sigh of relief and a big thank you from everybody."