Yokota cops are helping Guam base handle post-typhoon security problems
December 20, 2002
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, GUAM — Brandishing a machete. Stealing a gas can from an unlocked car. Walking through a hole in the fence.
Cops deployed to this base from Japan are learning that post-typhoon crimes hardly are typical.
Members of Yokota Air Base’s 374th Security Forces Squadron are here helping Andersen’s cops with security until life returns to normal.
Yokota deployed 13 cops to Andersen on Dec. 11, three days after Super Typhoon Pongsona turned gas into gold and flared tempers.
“The first couple days after the typhoon, people were going crazy,” said Staff Sgt. John Ward, a cop with Andersen’s 36th Security Forces Squadron.
“People were just disregarding things like traffic laws. It was too much for us to handle.”
Yokota’s cops work 12-hour daylight shifts, patrolling the fence line in all-terrain vehicles, staffing the gates and walking and biking through housing areas.
Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska also deployed 13 cops this week; they keep watch during the night shift.
Members of both squadrons team up with Andersen’s cops on security jobs.
“Our biggest concentration is in the housing area,” where there’s been sporadic looting since the typhoon, said Yokota’s Master Sgt. Kevin Evert, 37.
Base residents have reported missing gas cans and attempted thefts of generators, Evert said.
One woman called security after a five-gallon gas can she left overnight in the back seat of her unlocked car turned up missing, Evert said.
“She said gas was like gold, that she’d rather have her car stolen,” said 374th SFS cop Staff Sgt. Fred Medina, 23.
The typhoon knocked out power across the island. Many people, both on and off the base, are using fuel-powered generators to produce electricity in their homes and businesses.
Gas was unavailable to most of the public until Sunday, when some service stations reopened.
“There’s been a couple of gas-line altercations, when the wait was four or five hours” at Andersen, Evert said. “People were trying to cut in line.”
Keeping the base perimeter secure after the typhoon’s 180 mph winds blew through was — and still is — a police priority, Evert said.
Areas along the fence were damaged. A contractor on a construction detail in the housing area was caught sneaking through a hole in the fence last week, Evert said. Residents immediately called to report the incident; the man was detained and turned over to Guam police.
“Instead of going through the gate with the rest of his group, he decided to go through a hole, which he apparently had been doing before,” Evert said.
Air Force civil engineers are repairing the fence, Evert said.
Yokota’s cops probably will be deployed through Christmas, they said. Despite the cold showers, the stint in typhoon country is bearable, said 374th SFS cop Staff Sgt. Henry Freeman, 30.
“It’s warm here. Yokota was like 20 degrees at night,” Freeman said. But he’s a newlywed, so the separation from home is “real hard, if you ask my wife,” he said. “But they asked me to go, so I go.”
Their work for Andersen is “pretty much the same as what we do back home,” Medina said.
And then there’s the bizarre: Cops said they caught four teenagers setting off a fire extinguisher in an empty house and hacking up palm trees with a machete.
Schools have been closed since the typhoon.
“Apparently, everyone has machetes around here because of the jungle,” Evert said. “It’s probably because they were bored and had nothing to do.”