By Spc. Samantha B. Koss, Fort CarsonMarch 31, 2011
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Fort Carson personnel worked around the clock March 22-26, at Denver International Airport, to help American military family members stationed in Japan to transition during their evacuation from the devastation from an earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan.
The relief effort, called Operation Pacific Passage, offers U.S. serviceA,Amembers and their families the opportunity to voluntarily leave Japan at government expense.
Fort Carson sent more than 60 Soldiers and government employees in support of Operation Pacific Passage, including chaplains, Army Community Service employees and representatives from the Directorate of Human Resources.
"Even though these families were not from Fort Carson, they are still part of our military family and we want to treat them as our own," said Lt. Col. Edwin Fisk, detachment commander for Fort Carson personnel supporting Operation Pacific Passage.
Soldiers from Fort Carson's 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, were called to help as flights came into Denver International Airport, March 24.
"We are helping our military families stationed in Japan through their evacuation process," said 2nd Lt. Eric Kinney, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment. "We are giving families their connecting flight information, escorting them through security and finding their luggage."
Kinney was one of the officers in charge of Soldiers from Fort Carson aiding in the evacuation relief following the earthquake and tsunami March 11.
Military family members from Japan first flew to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Wash. The families continued to Denver International Airport, depending on their final destinations.
The first flight arrived March 24, which carried 74 passengers, all military families stationed in Japan. Two more flights flew into Denver International Airport March 25.
"The earthquakes and aftershocks really scared us," said Deborah Hernandez, wife of Air Force Tech. Sgt. Roland Hernandez, Yokota Air Force Base, Japan. Hernandez has been at Yokota for the past eight years and has three children, Troy, 14, Sierra, 13, and Louis, 10. She left Japan with her children to be with family in San Antonio. Hernandez's husband stayed in Japan to help at the Air Force Base.
"We were worried about the kids being exposed to radiation," Hernandez explained. Her husband's commander said "it would be best for us to evacuate" so she decided to take her children out of school and head back to the U.S.
"The kids are able to finish school online so they will not be held back," Hernandez said. "Their teachers posted schoolwork on websites and in emails."
Directorate of Human Resources representatives helped in-process the evacuated families.
"We are here to check their documents and tell them where they need to go next," said Derek Williams, human resource assistant at Directorate of Human Resources.
Ten Army Community Service volunteers were available for counseling and were prepared to provide Army Emergency Relief loans while the families in-processed.
"ACS is predicated on the word 'service,' and what greater service can we provide than to assist people who were uprooted (from their home)," said Pat Randle, ACS director. "We helped take care of babies and children so the parents could in-process."
Some children played catch with Fort Carson Soldiers while their parents received assistance.
"It is nice to put a smile on these kids' faces after all they have been through in Japan," said Spc. Shawn Hufford, 3rd Sqdn., 61st Cav. Reg., as he tossed a ball to Ethan Bassett, 5, son of Air Force Staff Sgt. Victoria Bassett, Yokota, Japan.
The Bassetts evacuated from Japan to be with family in Oklahoma City.
"The military really made the travel easy," said Bassett. "We haven't had any problems with the transition. We are so thankful for all the help."