Yokota Mindulle recovery is a team effort
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Yokota personnel continue to recover since the onset of Tropical Storm Mindulle, which struck Yokota Aug. 22, leaving nearly 10 inches of rain behind and whipping the installation with 35-mph winds for hours. In preparation of the storm, Col. Kenneth Moss, 374th Airlift Wing commander, established a cease-movement Aug. 21 for the following morning, ensuring all non-essential personnel were in their homes and safe from dangerous winds and heavy rainfall.
Before the first drop of rain fell, however, members of the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron were on the ground, sandbagging and strengthening roofs against potential leaks. They continued to work through the storm.
“We’ve been on 24-hour operations since Sunday,” said Maj. Korinne Takeyama, 374 CES operations flight commander. “After the storm hit it was all hands on deck clearing the roadways, sandbagging and dealing with flooded facilities.”
The storm knocked down fences, collapsed ceilings and toppled trees.
Takeyama explained that the 374 CES managed to get the flight line back in operation within six hours of the storm’s passing. The housing towers, however, provided a bigger challenge. Flooding in East side towers was chest-high, reaching record levels at a full foot above the previous record water line. The water leaked into tower mechanical rooms, resulting in power outage. More than 300 families were evacuated to ensure safety and for comfort.
Senior Airman Christian Leyson, 374 CES water and fuel systems section journeyman, was one Airmen who helped drain water from a tower basement.
“I’ve seen a lot of crazy jobs like this in my line of work but this is definitely the first time I’ve seen something this devastating,” Leyson said. “Still, I think we’re doing a fantastic job with what we have. We have some of the best people in this career field and they’re making everything run like clockwork.”
Leyson explained how he and other CES personnel had been recalled at 6 a.m. and had been working during the heaviest flooding.
“Even though I’ve been up for so long, as long as these people get home safe with power and water, I’m happy,” Leyson said. “I did my job.”
Among the squadrons teaming up were 374 CES water and fuel systems, pavement and equipment maintenance and fire and emergency services. While some CES worked to drain flooding from East side towers, other worked with the 374th Force Support Squadron to provide contingency housing for tower residents without electricity.
The 374 FSS and CES evacuated 326 families and 916 people within 24 hours of the storm. Members of the FSS provided evacuated residents with mattresses, cots, linens and shower curtains and the Red Cross provided water and snacks. The teamwork did not stop there. The 374th Airlift Wing brought together approximately 150 volunteers, from Airmen to children, to help clean the contingency towers and prepare the rooms. In addition, many friends and coworkers opened their homes up to evacuated residents. Yokota’s joint partners at Yokosuka Naval Base also contributed, lending three adductors from the USS Ronald Regan to significantly speed the draining process.
“It was a huge effort across the wing,” said Takeyama. “It was a lot of hard work but we loved it. Our Airmen love what they do and everyone’s had a great attitude since we’ve been out running 24-hour shifts.”
With the help of all Yokota families and personnel who contributed, Takeyama explained, operations are beginning to return to normal.