US Marine Corps, July 21, 2016 - MCAS FUTENMA, OKINAWA, JAPAN by Cpl Daniel Jean-Paul Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing currently deployed with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing as part of the unit deployment program, worked alongside the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and Okinawa emergency services in Exercise Chura-Shima Rescue 2016 July 21, aboard Camp Naha, Okinawa Japan.
The annual exercise hosted by the 15th Brigade, Western Army, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, trains humanitarian assistance and disaster relief-involved agencies for a swift reaction to a large-scale earthquake and tsunami in Okinawa.
The event marked the second year Marines participated in the exercise, supporting mutual preparation and demonstrating the importance of interoperability.
“The main purpose of today is to build upon our working relationship with the JGSDF,” said Capt. Jared B. Howells, the assistant operations officer with HMH-361. “Disaster relief is a top priority for the Marine Corps here in Japan, so cohesion with JGSDF is critical. We have to be able to work together to deploy at the drop of a dime in order to provide whatever humanitarian aid the affected area may need.”
Marines with HMH-361 transported Japanese role players from a mock disaster zone on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, via a CH-53E Super Stallion, to Camp Naha to receive simulated medical care.
According to Capt. Robert D. Pfeil, a pilot with HMH-361, the Super Stallion is ideal for mass casualty evacuations due to its heavy-lift capabilities.
“Even though the 53’s main purpose is to provide assault support, it is also extremely useful in humanitarian aid,” said Pfeil. “Its ability to transport supplies, vehicles, troops and casualties in and out of austere locations makes it perfect when responding to natural disasters.”
With the constant, imminent threat of earthquakes and tsunami in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, training such as this allows HMH-361 to respond expeditiously when danger calls, as it did after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and then again in Kumamoto, Kyusha island in April 2016.