Mobility Airmen instrumental in evacuating aircraft to safety ahead of Typhoon In-fa

  • Published
  • By Ms. Amelia Dickson
  • 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing

For six months each year, Airmen throughout the Indo-Pacific region are ready for typhoon season. During that time, the region’s air terminals are on standby to receive aircraft from regions hit by winds up to 130 knots — or 150 mph.

Airmen were called to action this month when Typhoon In-fa threatened to hit Kadena Air Base, in Okinawa. Aircraft were evacuated to Yokota Air Base, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, and Osan Air Base.

“It’s always crazy when this happens,” said Mr. Ernest Weber, air terminal manager at Yokota Air Base, located west of Tokyo. “It’s not just the planes coming in from the typhoon area, it’s also the planes that would be coming in on a daily basis.”

The Yokota air terminal, managed by the 730th Air Mobility Squadron, helped to welcome eight additional aircraft from Kadena. Terminal staff developed a parking plan to ensure there was room for the incoming aircraft in addition to the ongoing daily missions. Airmen also provided stair trucks and fleet services — potable water and lavatory trucks.

The aerial port at Yokota typically handles between 20 and 30 missions each day, including Patriot Express missions. So, the additional eight aircraft were significant, Weber said.

But the effort was manageable thanks to the hard work of the air terminal staff — both Airmen and civilian employees.

The air terminal portion of the evacuation required a coordinated effort within the 515th Air Mobility Operation Group, an Air Mobility Command (AMC) organization that oversees the 730th AMS, the 731st Air Mobility Squadron at Osan Air Base in Korea, and the 733d Air Mobility Squadron at Kadena Air Base.

The group also works closely with the air terminal at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, also in Japan.

Most of the aircraft evacuated from Kadena Air Base belong to Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), necessitating cooperation between two different major commands.

“This effort illustrates that our squadrons and mission partners are equipped and ready to work together to keep global mobility missions moving throughout the Pacific, even during extreme weather,” said Col. Chris Kiser, 515th AMOG commander. “It also sends a clear message to our strategic competitors that we’re a capable, robust and resilient organization.”

Typhoon In-fa brought sustained winds of 34 knots (about 40 mph) and gusts of 42 knots (about 48 mph) to Kadena Air Base on July 21, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. With Kadena Air Base being located in “Typhoon Alley,” there’s a good chance the 515th AMOG will need to repeat the drill this year.

“We’re used to it, it’s part of normal life,” Weber said. “It’s what we expect in the summer.”

“To us, they’re just extra planes because we have a great team of professionals who are motivated to do their jobs,” he added.