MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan – The U.S. Air Force is once again allowing its military personnel – but not family members - to take new assignments to mainland Japan.
The Air Force halted all moves to Japan in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and follow-on tsunamis that left a nuclear crisis brewing in Fukushima, and an immediate U.S. military focus on humanitarian relief efforts for the Japanese.
But Capt. Julie Harrison, operations officer for the 35th Force Support Squadron at Misawa Air Base, said Air Force officials in Japan requested that the personnel pipeline be opened up again to allow uniformed personnel to start moving here to take over jobs vacated by those who’ve departed in the past month.
She said that airmen who are supposed to report to Misawa with their families will have to travel alone and have the family catch up when civilians are finally allowed to travel back to Japan. The State Department and Department of Defense authorized a “voluntary departure” for civilians in Japan, and thousands are now waiting at their chosen safe haven locations for permission to return.
Numbers on how many inbound personnel are expected to start their travel weren’t immediately available Thursday evening, but Harrison said troops could start arriving at Misawa as early as Monday. The other base impacted by the order is Yokota Air Base, near Tokyo.
Harrison said it wasn’t clear whether government civilian employees are now allowed to travel and has sent a request for further guidance.
She said airmen with orders to Misawa who have been waiting — and those with a report-no-later date of April — should work with their current commands to facilitate orders and tickets.
Harrison said she expects a big rush of personnel and assumes that some of the in-processing will have to be adjusted to accommodate the new arrivals.
Contact the Total Force Service Center at 1-800-525-0102 for more information.