BY SKY M. LARON, DIRECTOR OF CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS, NAVSUP FLEET LOGISTICS CENTER YOKOSUKA
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JMSDF pilot awarded - Capt. Raymond Bichard, Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka commanding officer, presents a letter of appreciation and command coins for his crew to Lt. Wataru Narita, JMSDF Patrol Squadron THREE (VP-3) pilot, for his crews medical evacuation assistance in Iwo-To, Japan. –Photo by Sky M. Laron
Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistic Center (FLC) Yokosuka, Commanding Officer Capt. Raymond Bichard presented a letter of appreciation to a Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) pilot Jan. 7 onboard Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi.
“I would like to express my sincere appreciation for you and your crew from JMSDF Patrol Squadron THREE (VP-3) for superb assistance to the highly successful medical evacuation for one of our Sailors from Iwo-To to Naval Air Facility Atsugi conducted on the early morning of 28 November 2015,” said Bichard.
NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka, Site Atsugi fuel department personnel periodically conduct fuel support operations on the Japanese island of Iwo-To, generally in support of Carrier Air Wing FIVE (CVW-5) night landing practice.
CVW-5 is America’s “911” air wing and is a critical combat strike element of Battle Force 7th Fleet, the only forward-deployed carrier strike group in the U.S. Navy.
Having the NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka personnel on island during the air wing’s training allows the wing to receive the needed fuel to accomplish its mission.
“In addition to all aspects of [NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka] products and services being provided to all customers at NAF Atsugi, Site Atsugi is also responsible to provide fuel support on both NAF Atsugi and Iwo-To for CVW-5, [Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron Five One] and other transient aircraft operating in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility,” said Lt. Jeff Eom, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka, Site Atsugi director.
The support on Iwo-To holds historical significance as well, with the island itself being hallowed ground.
The island of Iwo-To previously known as Iwo-Jima, was the sight of one of the bloodiest World War II battles in the Pacific theater with thousands of U.S. and Japanese servicemembers killed. It is also where the U.S. flag-raising on Mount Suribachi was ordered, which was captured in an iconic photo by The Associated Press’ Joe Rosenthal.
Seventy years later fierce enemies are now staunch allies and the current JMSDF facilities are periodically shared in support of the required U.S. training needs.
One example of the strength of today’s American and Japanese partnership was displayed with the successful medical evacuation that took place Nov. 28.
“It didn’t matter if the injured person was American or Japanese,” said Lt. Wataru Narita, JMSDF VP-3 pilot. “My mission was to carry an injured person back to the mainland and I did what I had to do to accomplish the mission.”
Wataru and his crew’s prompt response to the urgent flight request significantly contributed to the safe care of the NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka servicemember when absolutely required, said Bichard.
“[Wataru’s] outstanding support reflects not only unselfish devotion to duty but also caring for our nations’ longstanding and even stronger alliance,” said Bichard.