Japan Relief Efforts Centered At U.S. Military Bases American military bases throughout Japan are being used as staging areas for disaster response teams. At Air Base Misawa, the work has been complicated by the loss of electricity and a Defense Department order that authorizes the departure of all U.S. military dependents from Japan's main island.
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Japan Relief Efforts Centered At U.S. Military Bases

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Japan Relief Efforts Centered At U.S. Military Bases

Japan Relief Efforts Centered At U.S. Military Bases

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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from a U.S. Air Force base in the north of the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTERS)

JASON BEAUBIEN: Air Base Misawa is home to two squadrons of F-16 fighter jets but right now its tarmac is lined with U.S. Navy Sea Hawk helicopters, C-130 transport planes and Japanese Self-Defense Force helicopters, all working on earthquake relief missions. On Saturday, Naval Reservist Mike Wendelon from Cambridge, Massachusetts offloaded four tons of blankets and two tons of food from a Navy cargo plane.

MIKE WENDELON: This will be our first trip today but we'll be back for another round before the sunset, so.

BEAUBIEN: Misawa was been a staging area for American, French and British search and rescue teams. Air Force Colonel Mike Rothstein is the commander of the base.

MIKE ROTHSTEIN: We've got food and water coming through here and other sorts of supplies. There's Japanese helicopters and there's U.S. helicopters here that can help, you know, do some of that short-haul lift to the places that need it. So, we're going to continue to operate and we're going to continue to be here to support the Japanese.

BEAUBIEN: There are more than 40,000 dependents of American military personnel stationed in Japan, although not all of them are on them are on Honshu.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAN SPEAKING OVER PA SYSTEM)

BEAUBIEN: Air Force Major Tom Esser from Covington, Louisiana is helping to coordinate the exodus of military family members from this base.

TOM ESSER: We've got - and the numbers are changing, obviously this is an evolving process as people make their decision - but we've got relatively 1,600 people that have said I would like to leave.

BEAUBIEN: Jennifer Sentillion is waiting with her newborn baby, Leeland, to get processed for departure. Her husband is deployed to the Middle East. Sentillion gave birth to their first son on March 8th and then three days later the quake pounded this area.

JENNIFER SENTILLION: Yeah, it was the day after I brought him home from the hospital. So, that was a little scary, a little overwhelming but we're OK.

BEAUBIEN: Sentillion says she's not extremely worried about the crippled nuclear reactors because they're fairly far away from here but she says it's been hard on base with the power cuts. The area has also already run out of baby formula, so she'd like to leave at least temporarily.

SENTILLION: I'm going to go stay with my dad and visit my husband's family since they're all in the same area. And it'll give them a chance to meet him and kind of give me a break too, you know, a newborn, bringing him home, it's tough.

BEAUBIEN: Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Misawa Air Base, Northern Japan.

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