Accounting of Americans in S.E. Asia continues
As nations hit by Sunday’s earthquake-driven tsunami continued to tally the human toll, U.S. military commands across the Pacific worked to determine whether any servicemembers were among the dead or missing.
While all servicemembers and civilians from some commands had yet to be accounted for, initial reports indicated that most who’d been in the affected areas were safe.
In Japan, Misawa Air Base officials said Tuesday they have accounted for three Air Force members who were in Thailand on Sunday.
Two already have returned to Misawa and the other has been in contact with base officials and is safe, said Misawa spokesman Tech. Sgt. Mikal Canfield. He said he did not know where the three servicemembers were when the disaster struck. No Air Force personnel assigned to the base are missing, he said.
Officials at Yokota Air Base and Camp Zama in Japan said all personnel stationed there had been accounted for.
On Guam, Andersen Air Force Base officials said they had no personnel visiting areas affected by the tsunami.
“All members have been contacted and accounted for,” said Andersen spokesman Tech. Sgt. Bryan Gatewood.
A Marine spokeswoman said Tuesday some servicemembers assigned to Camp Butler, Okinawa, were in Thailand on leave when the tsunami hit but they had been accounted for and are safe.
The spokeswoman, citing force protection/security issues, said she couldn’t divulge exact numbers of personnel in the region.
She added that information on Marines possibly vacationing in the affected areas, who are assigned to the III Marine Expeditionary Force and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, still was being researched Tuesday afternoon.
The U.S. military command in Seoul said Tuesday it was working to account for members of its military communities who might be in the affected areas.
A written statement attributed to Air Force Lt. Col. Deborah Bertrand, U.S. Forces Korea spokeswoman, read: “We have identified and are currently confirming the safety and whereabouts of those USFK members in the areas affected. That process is going slowly but well so far. Infrastructure damage has made communications difficult but we are hopeful that each of them will be accounted for soon.”
The personnel in affected areas “isn’t a large number, but even one unaccounted for is too many and we will not rest until every member of our command is located and assisted in returning safely to us,” Bertrand said.
Many southeast Asian countries, particularly Thailand, are popular vacation destinations for servicemembers and DOD civilians.
While a firm number wasn’t readily available, a Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific spokesman said Tuesday “quite a few” DODDS personnel were in the affected areas.
As of Tuesday afternoon, all but 15 of DODDS-Pacific’s 45 schools had replied to a query from the regional office. All schools that replied said their staff members were safe, DODDS officials stated.
Officials from Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, reported Monday that all personnel in the tsunami-stricken nations were accounted for and safe.