Be Prepared, you just never know
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- How prepared are you? At any moment a natural disaster, civil unrest or even an enemy attack could put the Island into a chaotic state. Would you want to run the risk of trapping your family in the chaos?
On March 11, 2011, an earthquake struck Japan, causing over 15,000 deaths and spreading mass chaos along the entire east coast of Honshu Island from Chiba to Aomori prefecture.
On March 17, the 35th Fighter Wing commander announced the authorization of voluntary departure for Department of Defense family members in Japan. This action was taken because of the deteriorating situation at the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Plant, which set the base in motion to begin a processing line for Noncombatant Evacuation Orders at the base club.
NEO folders contain paperwork that a military dependent will need to ensure they can evacuate quickly and have the information they will need afterward such as travel, financial and contact information.
"Two weeks after I had left for a TDY (Temporary Duty assignment) the earthquake hit, and my spouse was here with my kids and our dog, and she had to do the evacuation stuff herself," said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mueller, 35th Force Support Squadron NCO in charge of NEO operations. "Luckily we had everything filled out and that got her through the line much quicker."
Dependents using the recommended paperwork in their prepared NEO folder were able to quickly process through the line and sent on their way to the United States without any delays.
"Regardless the line is going to take a while to get through, but being in the line only two hours versus five hours can be a big deal especially when it comes to a lone dependent with children," said Mueller.
Some people do not like to provide the recommended information or copies of them inside their NEO folder because they fear their personally identifiable information may be leaked.
"It's understandable if you do not want to provide certain items because they are PII," said Mueller. "You can put in a MFR (Memo For Record) stating so and where they can be found during inpections, but during an evacuation they must be present."
Remembering that this information is for your dependents to not only get home quickly but to know where to find the information they need is imperative, Mueller added. Things like passports for travel; financial information for evacuation pay; and a pet's shot records being kept up to date are some of the most commonly missing items.
"Take NEO seriously. Nobody really thought that an earthquake would hit and cause mass chaos a couple years ago but it did. It opened a lot of people's eyes and they realized why they needed the folder," said Mueller. "Be prepared you never know when something is going to happen."