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IE SHIMA, Okinawa — Cargo-drop training at the Ie Shima Auxiliary Airfield was set to resume Friday after a four-month hiatus.

U.S. Marines, who control the airfield on the island off Okinawa’s northwest shore, say they have moved the parachute training drop zone following the a Oct. 25 incident involving the dropping of a 166-pound bundle on a farmer’s field just outside the airfield.

No one was injured in the incident, which involved the failure of a 22-pound parachute to deploy during a practice parachute drop involving Kadena Air Base’s 17th Special Operations Squadron.

But it frightened island residents, and the Ie Shima Town Council passed a resolution demanding the cessation of all airdrop missions over the island.

Parachute training was moved to the tiny island following the closing of the Yomitan Auxiliary Airfield near Torii Station in accordance with the 1996 bilateral Special Action Committee on Okinawa report that called for the return of 21 percent of base property used by U.S. forces on Okinawa.

“Out of concern for safety and respect for Prefecture citizens, we have implemented new training safety measures,” said 2nd Lt. Z.S. Riggle in a press release from Marine Corps Consolidated Public Affairs on Okinawa.

“Most notably, the drop target has been moved towards the ocean, further away from civilian areas, and the flight path for cargo drop training has been rerouted to avoid flying over any civilian area.”

Riggle said the method of dispatching the parachutes from the aircraft has also been changed.

“We have also added a ‘kick out’ method,” he said. “This will prevent cargo from tangling on the line that opens the parachute.”

The October accident was caused by the failure of a cotton restraint, Marine officials said following the incident. The device, which holds the parachute in its bag during such drops, failed to break, preventing the parachute from deploying.

Limited parachute training involving personnel was resumed in December.

“The U.S. military is convinced that the new safety measures will prevent cargo from falling into civilian areas,” Riggle said. “It is imperative that the U.S. military, under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in defense of both Japan and the United States, conduct the training in order to maintain operational readiness.”

Ie Shima Mayor Seitoku Shimabukuro Thursday accepted the resumption of the cargo drop training at the auxiliary airfield in his village.

“I am relieved to learn that the drop target had been moved further away from civilian areas,” he said. “The new safety measures presented by the Marine Corps give me assurance, to a certain degree, that the training would be held safely from now on, and that no similar incident would occur as long as the measures are properly implemented.”

However, he was mindful of the human element in such accidents.

“Those who carry out these measures into action are individual servicemembers who participate in the training,” he said. “I ask each one of them to be mindful of safety at all times.”

— Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.

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