Restored aircraft signifies recovery from disaster
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- In the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, Japan Air Self-Defense Force members walked dazedly through the remains of Matsushima Air Base, Japan. The remains of aircraft lay flooded along the flightline, many of them F-2 Fighter jets destroyed by massive waves.
Two months after the disaster, an Airman from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force approached one of these F-2 Fighter aircraft and climbed onto its wing. He pulled out a cloth and began cleaning it, unknowingly beginning the recovery process of the beloved aircraft.
Now, more than four years after restoration began, the first fully-repaired F-2 Fighter aircraft was welcomed to Misawa Air Base, Japan, during a ceremony April 21 that signified more than just a restoration of hardware. It was another mark of a country bouncing back from a period of partial devastation.
It was a recognizable step in Japan's recovery from the disaster because it was the first of 18 damaged aircraft belonging to the JASDF's 4th Air Wing from Matsushima AB to be restored. The F-2 showcased at the ceremony was one of six repaired aircraft scheduled to be deployed to Misawa, which will be the new location for some upcoming JASDF pilot training as Matsushima continues the rebuilding process.
"I was in Aomori, Japan, when [the earthquake] happened," said Yuuki Nara, 35th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management liaison officer. "I followed the news and watched as Matsushima Air Base was washed out. It was devastating."
The disaster struck Japan with a 9.0-magnitude earthquake March 11, 2011, and caused a wall of 30-foot-high water to obliterate parts of the northeastern coast.
In response to the disaster, the JASDF, U.S military and other personnel were deployed to help with rescue efforts. Monetary support, restoration efforts and supplies were among the different types of aid Misawa provided during Operation Tomodachi -- the U.S. operation to support Japan in disaster relief.
"After base matters were resolved, Misawa reached out to the community to offer their service to the victims of the disaster," said Nara. "All I continue to hear about this base from Japanese citizens are good things, especially because they helped us in our time of need."
During the ceremony, members from various JASDF units around the country gathered on the Misawa flightline and welcomed the F-2 Fighter back with roaring applause.
"This shows Japan has being recovering," said Maj. General Hirohide Inoue, JASDF Misawa installation and 3rd Air Wing commander, while addressing the crowd. Inoue said work is underway to ensure all repairable F-2s affected will be restored to full condition.
Since the disaster, thousands of JASDF and U.S military members have volunteered to work at Matsushima Air Base in an effort to restore it to its previous condition. The recovery efforts of those affected shows yet another sign of hope revealed in the remains of a tragedy.